Miami Heat

Miami Heat still trying to put right pieces together

Back at it: The Heat's Danny Granger missed a good portion of the early season, but is now healthy and contributing.
Back at it: The Heat's Danny Granger missed a good portion of the early season, but is now healthy and contributing. TNS

Two months into this disappointing and disjointed Heat season marred by injuries and embarrassing home losses, Erik Spoelstra has tried most everything.

He moved Mario Chalmers to the bench, then back to the starting lineup.

He did the opposite with Norris Cole.

He often inserted Shabazz Napier late in games, but then stopped using him. The Heat sent Napier to its NBDL team Tuesday

He yanked James Ennis in and out of the rotation.

He now uses Chris Andersen as a starter after playing most of his career off the bench.

He played Shawne Williams as a starter, and then suddenly on Monday, not at all.

He kept Danny Granger in mothballs, strengthening his knees, then unleashed him for major minutes in the past week.

He inserted a player into the rotation (center Hassan Whiteside) who began the season in the NBA’s Development League.

Many of moves have been necessitated by injuries. Others were made with the hope of jump-starting a team that has the NBA’s fourth-most home losses (12, compared with six victories).

Give Spoelstra credit for flexibility, but the season so far has been humbling for a franchise coming off four consecutive Eastern Conference championships.

The Heat (14-18) awoke Tuesday four games below .500 for the first time since 2007-08, when Miami finished 15-67. What’s more, Miami has slid to eighth in the Eastern Conference, just two games ahead of Boston and Orlando for the final playoff spot.

“We’re 30 some games in; it’s enough talking,” Chris Bosh said before the team traveled to Indianapolis for Wednesday’s 3 p.m. game against the Pacers. “It’s about getting the job done. It’s not going to change until each person makes it change.”

Bosh hopes this latest lineup, with Andersen starting alongside him, gains some traction. “Coach has a bunch of decisions to make,” Bosh said.

Examining some of Spoelstra’s recent lineup choices:

▪ Andersen starting: Before this homestand that ended with Monday’s loss against Orlando, Andersen had come off the bench in 597 of 607 career appearances and in his first 125 games for the Heat.

But he started the past seven, six with Bosh sidelined by a calf injury and Monday’s game alongside Bosh. Spoelstra said Tuesday that “we’ll probably stick with that for the time being” for continuity reasons.

The Heat went 2-5 in those games with Andersen starting, but Miami outscored opponents by 39 with Andersen on the floor.

In those starts, Andersen averaged 23.5 minutes (well above his 17.9 career average and 19.4 last season), along with 8.0 points and 5.9 rebounds.

Dwyane Wade said Andersen “gives you another big defender, somebody to protect the rim” and starting him “lets Chris be a little bit more of a [power forward] and be able to use what he’s dynamic at with his shot ability and being able to drive.”

The Heat has shot 49 percent and outscored teams narrowly (by three points) in 87 minutes with Bosh and Andersen playing together this season.

▪ Point guard: Asked Tuesday about the Heat’s point guard play, Wade summed it up thusly: “It could be better.”

Chalmers has started the past six games but is mired in a 28-for-90 shooting slump and is down to 40.8 percent from the field, his lowest since 2009-10.

Cole is shooting 37.7 percent, among the worst for starting point guards. Napier is shooting 42.5 percent but has the worst assist-to-turnover ratio of any NBA point guard who has played more than five games (1.15 to 1) and hasn’t played in six games in a row.

And late Tuesday afternoon, the Heat assigned Napier to its NBDL team in South Dakota so he can get regular playing time. His first NBDL stint lasted only one game in mid-December before the Heat recalled him because of injuries and illness to other players.

▪ Backup center: Whiteside has played in four in a row, with his minutes growing in each game, from five to eight to 16 to 18. He has 17 rebounds — including seven in each of the past two — and five blocks, but also 10 fouls in those two.

For now, Spoelstra is opting for the seven-foot Whiteside instead of Udonis Haslem, who wasn’t summoned off the bench Monday. “He gives us something different,” Spoelstra said.

▪ Backup forward jobs: Granger has justified his expanded minutes by scoring 18 and 21 in Miami’s past two games.

“Maybe it’s a good thing me being out; he got some extra time and has been able to find his game,” Bosh said.

With Granger emerging, Spoelstra on Monday didn’t use Shawne Williams, who has started 22 games this season.

“I had intentions of playing Shawne in the first half,” Spoelstra said. “Danny was playing well so I just went with it.”

The Heat will play seven of its next eight on the road, where Miami is 8-6.

On the road, there’s “no pressure of winning at home,” Wade said. “You can play a little freer.”

▪ Spoelstra on the 2-5 home stand: “There was better basketball being played than what our record shows and that’s disappointing.”

Wednesday: Heat at Pacers

When/where: 3 p.m., Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

TV/radio: Sun Sports; WAXY 104.3 and 790 AM; 710 AM (Spanish)

Series: Indiana leads 56-40 all-time and 1-0 this season.

Noteworthy: The Pacers won 81-75 in Miami on Nov. 12, behind 17 points from Chris Copeland and 16 points and 15 rebounds from Roy Hibbert. ... Danny Granger returns to Indiana for the first time since the Pacers traded him to the Clippers last season. ... In a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat enters eighth in the conference and the Pacers 11th, at 11-21.

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