Five takeaways from the Heat’s 105-90 loss against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena:
▪ Miami cannot figure out how to win inside the league’s worst division. And Dwyane Wade has at least a partial explanation for why the Heat often plays poorly against non-marquee teams.
Miami (9-14) fell to 1-7 in the Southeast Division, which is dismal considering no team in the Southeast has a winning record and one of the teams in the division (Atlanta) is arguably the worst in the league.
Miami has now lost twice apiece to Atlanta, Charlotte and Orlando and once to Washington. Its only division win happened in the first week of the season at the Wizards.
With the loss, Miami fell two games behind Charlotte for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot and dropped to 5-9 at home, with a six-game Western swing up next.
Wade said he remarked to teammates before the game that “I would rather play Golden State than Orlando today coming off of winning two. I knew everyone would be locked in and would have to their jobs playing against a team like that. There is something about when we play a team that people don’t see on TV every night that we don’t play with the same focus that we need to.”
He said he and Udonis Haslem will continue to try to work with teammates to change that mentality but the players “are going to have it figure it out” by the time he and Haslem are no longer playing.
“That is one thing we are trying to pass down, UD and I, is what they need to do to have success in this league,” Wade said. “We keep trying to do it.”
After consecutive wins against New Orleans and Utah, “we just relaxed for some reason, like we got enough wins around here,” Wade said. “I thought our offense stunk tonight. I think it was all about spacing....
“Hopefully the next time you’re in a situation like this you learn from it,” Wade added. “We’ve got to go out there and figure out a way to play our game.”
Among the mysteries of this season: How can the Heat be so dreadful within its division yet be 4-0 at home against this past season’s Western Conference playoff teams?
But asked about losing to teams that Miami might be better than, such as Orlando, Wade said: “We’re not better.”
▪ We have our first Hassan Whiteside drama of the season.
Whiteside left the Heat bench for good and went to the locker-room with 40.5 seconds left and never explained it to Erik Spoelstra.
Wade said Whiteside indicated he needed to go to the bathroom.
“He’s probably extremely upset like we all are,” Spoelstra said.
The suspicion was that Whiteside might have disappointed by losing and again not playing in the fourth quarter, despite an active 10-point, six-rebound first quarter.
Whiteside opened 6 for 6 from the field but missed his only shot in nine third quarter minutes. He closed with 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in just under 25 minutes and didn’t play in the fourth, with Adebayo on the court for the entire quarter.
Perhaps he’s also frustrated about his free throw shooting; he’s 4 for 26 over his last six games and 0 for 2 on Tuesday.
Whiteside did not appear in the locker-room during the time it was open to reporters after the game; he was upstairs working on the Heat’s practice court.
Of his team in general, Spoelstra said: “If they’re angry, frustrated, pissed, funnel it into the team until we get the changes we want right now. We have enough to be able to push this thing forward.”
▪ Josh Richardson’s shooting slump continues.
Richardson entered having shot 6 for 19, 6 for 17, 8 for 22 and 4 for 16 in his previous four games – which equals 32.4 percent (24 for 74).
It didn’t get any better Tuesday, as Richardson missed his first eight shots before following his own miss twice and hitting a layup midway through the first quarter. He then hit a three but didn’t make another shot, finishing 2 for 14 and 1 for 7 on threes.
His six-point night ended a career-high streak of 19 consecutive games scoring in double figures.
Richardson has more ball-handling responsibilities with Goran Dragic out and that means he has less opportunity to move without the ball and shake free from defenders.
Richardson entered eighth in the league in points per game among shooting guards at 20.3, ahead of some highly skilled players – Jimmy Butler, J.J. Redick and Lou Williams.
But his 42.1 shooting percentage entering Tuesday ranks just 24th among shooting guards – and is barely above his 41.1 three-point shooting percentage, which is sixth among shooting guards.
His struggles against Orlando included failing to hit the rim on his first two shots of the third quarter – a jumper and driving layup.
▪ The Heat continues to experience lengthy offensive lulls that it often cannot overcome.
In being outscored 30-12 in the third quarter after going to halftime up four, Miami managed just 12 points in the quarter on 5 for 21 shooting.
This was Miami’s lowest scoring output of the season and another game the Heat clearly missed Dragic, who sat out his eighth game in a row with a sore knee.
“We were too stubborn with the ball and guys were open,” Spoelstra said. “Because they do a good job of protecting the paint.”
The Heat entered tied with Detroit for worst shooting percentage in the league, at 43.3, and 22nd in scoring at 108.2 points per game.
On Tuesday, Miami managed a season-low 40 points in the second half on 16 for 41 shooting, with the Heat closing at 41.8 percent from the field and 12 for 35 on threes.
No Heat player even reached 15 points; Justise Winslow led Miami with 14.
“Inability to sustain; that’s it,” Spoelstra said. “We can pull from any one of these losses where we have great moments. You have to be able to sustain your game for longer periods of time and you will live with the results from there. But there’s a flagrant inconsistency.”
This marked the fourth regular-season game in Heat history in which Miami shot five or fewer free throws. (The Heat was 2 for 5.)
▪ Bam Adebayo’s evolution in his second year is real and at times, spectacular.
During one sequence Tuesday, he had a two-handed block on one end and a spectacular follow dunk on the other. Then, in the fourth, he followed a Justise Winslow miss with another rim-rattling dunk.
Adebayo’s numbers are up across the board from last season. Per 36 minutes, he has increased his scoring average from 12.6 to 14.5 points per game, his rebounds from 10.0 to 13.1 and blocks from 1.1 to 1.5.
On Tuesday, he closed with six points, seven boards and three blocks in 23 minutes.
But he couldn’t keep Nic Vucevic from posting up and scoring a couple of key late baskets.
Meanwhile, Kelly Olynyk hit four three-pointers in the fourth to keep the Heat somewhat afloat.
Miami has outscored the opponent by 49 points with Olynyk on the court this season, best on the team after leading the team in that category last season. He’s a plus 59 over his last five games.