Five takeaways from the Heat’s 104-92 home loss on Tuesday night to the Brooklyn Nets, the Heat’s ninth loss in its last 12 games:
▪ The Heat’s misery continues and the need for a roster shakeup has never been more obvious.
Expect the Heat, now 6-11, to continue to explore potential trades, with Miami seemingly on the road to nowhere with this roster and slipping to 11th in the East, 2.5 games behind No. 8 Orlando.
“They need to make a move,” one front office official from another team texted last week.
People around the organization knows changes need to be made and the urgency figures to grow as the losses mount, especially with Miami positioned to pay more than $9 million in luxury tax if the payroll isn’t trimmed by the last day of the regular season.
Whether the Heat can do something significant with its available assets is another story entirely.
Miami typically inquires about any All-Star players available, and the Heat likely will engage with Washington, which reportedly is listening to offers on guards John Wall and Bradley Beal.
The Heat holds Beal in high regard, according to a source. But it’s difficult to envision Miami putting together an appealing enough package. He’s due $25.4 million this season, $27.7 million next year and $28.8 million the year after.
Though Riley always is intrigued by star players, the Heat likely would have interest in Wall only if Miami can dump unappealing contracts as part of the deal. Wall is due $38 million next season,and then $41 million, $44 million and $47 million the following three years.
Despite discord internally, Washington’s urgency to make a deal might dissipate somewhat after the Wizards rallied from a 24-point deficit to beat the Clippers on Tuesday, leaving them with the same 6-11 record that the Heat has.
Center Hassan Whiteside said injuries have prevented a clear read on this roster, with Goran Dragic (knee), Tyler Johnson (hamstring) and Dion Waiters (ankle) sidelined Tuesday. (Johnson said he’s probable for Friday’s game at Chicago.)
“Let’s see what this team is fully healthy,” Whiteside said after the game. “I’m really interested to see that.”
But since that never seems to happen with this roster, that’s difficult to bank on.
“We have a high belief in ourselves,” Whiteside insisted. “We came from worse. We were 11-30” in 2016-17 before closing 30-11 to finish 41-41.
▪ The Heat at the moment has no apparent homecourt advantage despite a 388-game sellout streak (eighth longest in NBA history) and now routinely wilts in the fourth quarter.
Brooklyn outscored Miami 30-15 in the fourth, with the Heat shooting 4 for 19 (21 percent) overall and 0 for 7 on threes in the fourth.
That means Miami has been outscored in the fourth quarter of eight of its last nine games.
The Heat entered 25th in the league in fourth quarter scoring average.
Meanwhile, Miami lost its fifth in a row at home and is now 3-7 at American Airlines Arena. Miami’s seven home losses are tied with Chicago for most in the league.
And the Heat has now lost all five games when it wears its snazzy Vice jerseys.
The shot just 36 percent (36 for 100) and 7 for 32 on threes (21.9 percent).
And though the defense was stout at times, Miami couldn’t control the penetration of D’Angelo Russell (20 boards) and was beaten on the boards, 40-34.
“We had a period today where we weren’t hitting shots and we let it bother us on the other end,” said Josh Richardson, who scored 16 on 6 for 20 shooting, including 0 for 5 on threes.
“Missed shots; those will happen,” Erik Spoelstra said. “25 for 60 in the paint, so we had some point blank opportunities in the first half…. But we let it get away from us [defensively] in the second half. Until that changes, we’ll continue to feel this pain. We can’t make excuses right now, especially with how we started this season. And we may have to win games ugly.”
▪ Whiteside shook off early struggles to make an enormous impact, finishing with 21 points, 23 rebounds and two blocks.
Whiteside entered having shot 6 for 15 and 2 for 9 in his previous two games and opened 3 for 11 before finishing 9 for 21.
Whiteside has been missing a bunch of shots around the basket and his footwork and balance look off at times. Such poor shooting is uncharacteristic of Whiteside, who has shot 57 percent from the field in his career.
But to his credit, he didn’t allow it to affect his effort on the boards, noting afterwards that the Heat “track my activity level and write it all down.”
In his career, Whiteside now has 19 games with 20 rebounds, two short of Rony Seikaly’s franchise record.
He has 10 career games with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds – also two fewer than Seikaly’s franchise record.
“You could see the force tonight,” Spoelstra said. “He was playing with much more physicality.”
▪ Dwyane Wade’s first game back won’t go down as a highlight of his final season.
After missing seven games because of the birth of his daughter, Wade returned and promptly committed three fouls in just two first half minutes.
He closed with five points in nearly 14 minutes, shooting 2 for 8 with two rebounds, two assists, a block and a turnover.
“I didn’t get a chance to do much; three fouls in the first quarter,” he said. “I’m 36. It’s hard to get the energy bank cranking. I really couldn’t do much in this one.”
Wade said teammates aren’t playing “free” and are “overthinking” at times.
This was neat: Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie wore shoes that were a tribute to Wade. The sneakers, designed by sneaker artist Kickasso, included the words “one last dance” – which is what Wade has dubbed this final NBA season.
▪ Kelly Olynyk became the second surprise DNP-CD (did not play, coach’s decision) of the season, following Wayne Ellington, who was kept on the bench for three games after he returned from injury this season.
Surprisingly, Spoelstra played rookie Duncan Robinson, on a two-way contract, ahead of Olynyk, who entered averaging a career-low 18.1 minutes, down from 23.4 last season. Robinson scored three points in 12 minutes.
Olynyk, in the second year of a four-year, $50 million contract, has struggled somewhat offensively, shooting 32.7 percent on threes, well below his 36.8 career average.
What’s more, Olynyk is allowing the player he’s defending to shoot 57.2 percent – much, much higher than those players shoot overall. Among power forwards and centers who have defended at least 100 shots, only the Knicks’ Enes Kanter is allowing a more bloated shooting percentage that Olynyk. In Olynyk’s defense, he leads Miami with five charges drawn.
Spoelstra said he intended to play Olynyk but never got to him.
But he added: “This is where it starts to get real” and noted minutes will be affected as James Johnson is worked back in. Olynyk stands to be perhaps most affected by the return of Johnson, who defended with verve but missed six of seven shots in 23 minutes.
The need for Johnson is accentuated not only because of his defense and versatility but his ability to be a ball-handler with Dragic sidelined.
▪ A change in the starting lineup had a negligible impact.
Spoelstra started Derrick Jones Jr. instead of Justise Winslow, and Jones had a quiet night (three points, 1 for 6 shooting, in 17 minutes, with four rebounds and two turnovers).
Winslow entered shooting just 33.6 from the field (38 for 113) and 26.5 on threes (9 for 34).
The Heat hopes that’s merely an anomaly and not a regression after Winslow made significant strides as a perimeter shooter last season, when he boosted his three-point average to a career-high 38 percent.
His overall shooting percentage entering the night ranked eighth worst among players who have played in at least 12 games this season.
But Winslow shot 4 for 7 on a 10-point night against Brooklyn.
The thinking with starting Jones, Spoelstra said, was to have another ball-handler (Winslow) come off the bench with Dragic out.