Barry Jackson

A glaring Heat problem worsens against Indiana without Miami’s most accomplished guards

Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson goes up to the basket against Pacers guard Tyreke Evans in the first quarter of the Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers, at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018.
Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson goes up to the basket against Pacers guard Tyreke Evans in the first quarter of the Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers, at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018.

Takeaways from the Heat’s 110-102 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena:

The steadying influence and ball-handling of Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade are missed.

With Dragic sidelined his second game in a row with a sore knee and Wade missing his second game in a row after the birth of his daughter, Miami unraveled offensively down the stretch.

After the Heat surged ahead 102-98 with 1:38 left, the Pacers closed the game on a 12-0 run.

The Heat’s final half dozen offensive possessions included three turnovers by Josh Richardson and missed three-pointers by Richardson and Winslow, as well as a missed layup by Winslow.

The Heat committed a season-high 24 turnovers leading to 29 Indiana points. Miami entered 24th in the league with an average of 16 turnovers a game.

So turnovers are a problem even when Miami has its two most accomplished guards, even more of one when the Heat doesn’t.

Richardson committed six turnovers, Tyler Johnson five, Hassan Whiteside four and Winslow three.

“It’s definitely a difference” without Wade and Dragic late in games, Richardson said. “Dwyane, even when he doesn’t have the ball, is very calming on the court. He has veteran leadership that we miss.”

Without either veteran, the Heat doesn’t have a natural point guard to run the team late.

“Even with Goran and Dwyane out, we’ve had plenty of times we could execute the offense with detail,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “What the [Pacers] were committed to doing was making us have to get off the ball and make us play and trust the second and third layers of the offense and clearly we weren’t able to get to that. We will get better with that.

“We are capable of better than this. I have seen us execute much better, but you have to credit Indiana. Even when we had some lanes to get to the rim, Myles [Turner] bottled us up. They are quick. They have quick hands. They were packing the paint so much, it was tough in the second half to generate the type of looks we wanted.”

When Miami was up four late, Spoelstra was thinking “we can win with three stops, as ugly as possible.”

Instead, “we had some bad turnovers at the end that really hurt us,” Whiteside said. “[Dragic and Wade] definitely help.”

Dragic is day to day with his knee problem. Spoelstra suggested he isn’t counting on Wade being available for Saturday’s home game against Washington.

Kelly Olynyk came to life but took a beating.

Olynyk scored 20 points in 21 minutes, but fell hard to the court twice - once when Thaddeus Young elbowed him (Young was ejected for the Flagrant 2 foul) and the other when Tyreke Evans kneed Olynyk early in the fourth quarter, forcing Olynyk to the locker-room before returning late.

On the play with Evans, “it knocked the wind out of me good, hit me in the chest,” Olynyk said.

Olynyk entered averaging just 19.3 minutes, which would be a career low and down from 23.4 last season. That’s a big reason why he came into the game with career lows in points per game (8.2) and rebounds per game (3.1).

Heat forward Kelly Olynyk reacts after falling down in the the fourth quarter of the Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. Pedro Portal

What’s more, he entered shooting only 28.9 percent on threes (11 for 38), something of an anomaly for a 36.8 percent career three-point shooter.

But Olynyk made two of his three three-point attempts in a 14-point first half and closed 3 for 5 on threes.

“Olynyk gave us great minutes,” Spoelstra said.

Hassan Whiteside continues playing with maximum effort.

He had 20 rebounds for the second consecutive game for the first time in his career, and now has 18 of those 20-rebound games for his career.

“Coach wants me to get every rebound,” he said.

Whiteside – who entered the night second in the league in rebounding average and first in blocks - had seven of his rebounds in the fourth quarter. He closed with four blocks and 11 points.

“Hassan was real good down the stretch,” Spoelstra said.

Tyler Johnson is making more of an impact.

After an uneven preseason and first four games, Johnson is playing closer to the player who had a franchise-record 11 20-point games off the bench two seasons ago, a year in which he led the NBA in minutes by anybody off the bench.

Johnson entered shooting 21 for 41 over his previous five games and 7 for 20 on threes.

He had 13 points on 5 for 8 shooting in the first half, with three baskets on threes and another on a nifty reverse layup. But he missed all four of his field goal attempts in a two-point second half, closing with 15. His five assists were offset by five turnovers.

Richardson shook off foul trouble and a slow start but misses the ball-handling help of Wade and Dragic.

After shooting 6 for 22 in a 14-point game against San Antonio, Richardson opened 2 for 8 Friday and left with his fourth foul 44 seconds into the third quarter.

He came alive in the fourth, hitting a three and two 19-footers to close with 18, keeping his average above 20 points per game at 20.5. But he needed to handle more of the ball-handling duties late in the game than he normally would, and the four fourth-quarter turnovers were costly, as Miami fell to 5-6.

“As long as you guys keep calling him a go-to guy, he’s going to have bad games,” Heat president Pat Riley said Thursday. “Let that organically happen, and I think everybody’s aware that he has the ability. We don’t try to put a lot of pressure on him. I think Spo is playing him a lot of minutes for a lot of reasons, and he’s getting more field-goal attempts. He’s more assertive.

“At the end of the games, he’s starting to recognize [in] real situations when he has the ball in his hands and the game is in doubt, that he’s got to make sure that something good happens – either the ball gets in the air to the rim or to an open man or sometimes you just make or miss. He’s learning how to do that, so far he’s done a good job of that. I’m really proud of Josh. He’s got the ability to really step up at his age, and he’s doing it right now.”

Related stories from Miami Herald