Barry Jackson

Spoelstra “speechless” and puzzled by blowout loss, while Haslem has “choice words”

Miami Heat Josh Richardson (0) drives to the basket and scores past Brooklyn Nets Spencer Dinwiddle (8) in the first quarter Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, at the AmericanAirline Arena in Miami.
Miami Heat Josh Richardson (0) drives to the basket and scores past Brooklyn Nets Spencer Dinwiddle (8) in the first quarter Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, at the AmericanAirline Arena in Miami. charles@miamiherald.com

So how does that happen?

How does a Heat group that entered winners of seven of 10 get demolished at home, 111-87, by a 13-22 Brooklyn team, a game that featured an 85-37 Nets stampede that left Miami in the dust, thoroughly embarrassed in front of its home crowd.

Afterward, Heat reaction ran the gamut from disappointment to bewilderment.

"Well, obviously, it is an extremely challenging team to figure out," Erik Spoelstra said. "I am speechless about it. I don’t know. We will keep on fighting and digging until we figure it out."

Spoelstra gave the obligatory credit to the Nets, saying they "played very hard, competed on a different level than us."

But there was more to it than that, of course.

Yes, the Heat’s offense was abysmal, with Miami closing at a season-low 33.7 percent from the field (30 for 89), including a 3-for-12 night from Goran Dragic, 2 for 10 from Wayne Ellington, 4 for 15 from Tyler Johnson and 1 for 7 from Kelly Olynyk.

The Heat shot 3 for 26 on threes. This marked the first time in the last 207 games that the Heat has made fewer than five threes in a game, dating to Nov. 15, 2016.

“The fact we were bothering them defensively, doing a good job of chasing the ball, I thought that helped out a lot [and] doing a good job of knowing their personnel,” Nets guard Joe Harris said.

But the Heat’s defense also was deplorable at times, and Johnson admitted that effort – a Heat hallmark – was absent at times.

"Sadly, it is hard to say this, but it is,” Johnson said when asked if Heat effort was an issue. “They wanted this game more than we did. That is rare to say about a group like this, but they just wanted the game more.”

Said Dragic: "We started the game well [up 18-8], but too much our defense was bad. Our offense too. They had open threes. We didn’t get back [on defense]. It was hard to watch.

"They were faster and hungrier. We need to bring our hearts and compete. We’re dropping games too easily, especially against teams below us. They’re still an NBA team. You have to respect them."

Co-captain Udonis Haslem delivered some "choice words," at halftime, Heat forward Jordan Mickey said. But not even that could inspire a better effort, with Brooklyn’s 30-point halftime lead growing to 38 in the third quarter.

Haslem "felt tonight we didn’t compete or step up to the challenge," Mickey said. "He said those are the types of games you’ve got to get, that we always drop games we shouldn’t lose."

Spoelstra’s patience with his team was also tested, including one sequence in the first quarter when Quincy Acy shot a wide open three in front of the Heat bench. Spoelstra then admonished his team.

"That possession was a microcosm of the entire game," Spoelstra said. "The lack of urgency to get back, to scramble. To make multiple efforts actually felt like, ‘Hey, there’s an open guy, let him shoot’ in a semi-transition situation. It was a very delayed break that led to a wide open shot that we didn’t make an effort to get to. Those plays piled up from there.

"It was just a bad basketball game. We certainly didn’t show resolve when the shots weren’t going in. Brooklyn was playing at a different pace than us."

Most mystifying: Why is this team good enough to be 10-8 on the road – with quality wins at Boston, Minnesota and Washington – but 8-9 at home, with five of those nine home losses by 15 or more (to San Antonio, Indiana, Golden State, New Orleans and now Brooklyn).

"I wish I had a direct answer," Josh Richardson said of these clunkers.

"If we knew why, we wouldn’t be in that situation," Johnson said.

Miami (18-17) squandered a chance to move three games above .500 for the first time since April 2016, when Dwyane Wade was still a member of the Heat.

"We all see the same thing," Spoelstra said. "It’s tough to recognize the same team from the previous game [a 107-89 win against Orlando]. One game doesn’t necessarily carry over to the next game. We have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde quality to us that’s extremely perplexing. Sometimes we compete at an extremely high level. You can see it and you can feel it. Then we have these games that are unexplainable."

And now there’s a quick turnaround, with a Friday night flight to Orlando for a Saturday evening game against the Magic.

"I wish we could get out there right now," Spoelstra said after Friday’s game. "I think the guys in the locker room feel that way. Our approach tomorrow has to feel different. It has to be different, starting with a film session and team meeting to prepare. We need a normal prep that has to have a different level of urgency than we had today. We’ll get to do this again tomorrow, hopefully with a different effort and a different result."

 

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