On Heat Twitter it’s known as the “Turd Quarter.”
In reality, it’s where all of the Miami Heat’s struggles usually begin — right after halftime and right after a lot of good stuff usually happens for Erik Spoelstra’s bunch over the first two quarters.
“I don’t know if we’re not warming up right, I don’t know if our brain is shutting off at halftime, but whatever it is we’ve got to figure it out soon,” Josh Richardson said Monday, a day after another one of the Heat’s epic third-quarter collapses led to its most embarrassing loss of the season, a 120-95 defeat at home to the Indiana Pacers.
“I’ve heard [the jokes, seen the poop emojis on Heat Twitter],” Richardson continued. “Like I said, we’ve got to do something.”
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The numbers don’t lie. Miami (7-9) is one of the best first-half teams in the league — and the worst second-half team in the league.
Over the first two quarters, Miami shoots 51.1 percent from the field (sixth best), 42.6 percent from three (second best), averages 53.9 points (14th), and outscores teams by 44 points over the first two quarters (sixth-best differential in the league).
But in the second half, while the defense actually improves (holding opponents to 43.1 percent shooting, seventh best in the league), the offense falls flat on its face. The Heat ranks dead last in scoring (45.6 points), field goal percentage (39.6 percent), three-point shooting percentage (26.9 percent) and has been outscored by opponents by a league-worst 87 points over the final two quarters.
So, if you’re wondering why this year’s Heat team has such a Jekyll and Hyde quality to it, look no further than that.
“We just have to be able to sustain it for 48 minutes,” said 15-year veteran Udonis Haslem, who saw his first action of the season and made only his second appearance since Feb. 4 in garbage time of the Heat’s blowout loss Sunday.
“It’s not physical. It’s mental for us. We’ve got to be able to sustain intensity and focus for 48 minutes understanding that even though the game of basketball is emotional and it goes up and down we still have to stay even throughout the course of the game.
“It’s part of the learning curve and learning ourselves. We have to understand that if we don’t get a call or there’s a bad play or if we go five, six minutes with offense and the shots aren’t falling, we still have to be emotionally stable.”
The search for emotional stability began Monday with what tri-captain James Johnson described as “grueling, dog-eat-dog practice.”
“It was a lot of physicality in practice and everybody came ready,” point guard Goran Dragic said. “We cleaned some stuff up, especially our defense.”
Said Johnson: “Our offense, we can’t rely on that. We rely on our defense. But when you’re making mistakes on the offensive end sometimes it can snowball into something gigantic and it did yesterday. We have to take it for what it was, not making any excuse for it. We played poorly. We didn’t have no heart that game and they exposed that. But, like I said, those kinds of games happen. We just can’t let it happen again.”
One thing Dragic and Spoelstra said they both will do is encourage the team to get back out on the floor faster after meeting at halftime. This year, the NBA shortened its halftime break to a hard 15 minutes, and the Heat has usually been slower than its opponents getting back out on the floor.
Dragic said the team “should go on the floor with like seven, six minutes on the clock and just start warming up because we feel like that the third quarter that we’re not ready enough.”
While the second half collectively ranks as the worst in the league, the third quarter is really where Miami’s woes begin. The Heat averages a league-low 20.4 points per game in the third quarter and has been outscored by 59 points in the period (only the Mavs minus-82 and Suns minus-69 are worse).
“Maybe the next game, on Wednesday, we won’t even go into the locker room and just stay out there and just warm up for 12 minutes,” Spoelstra said. “Because often we’re playing good basketball in the second quarter. And then we go in there, relax and get out of that mindset of real competition. It’s just something we’ll have to get better at and correct.”
Heat’s tale of two halves
Scoring: 53.9 (14th)
Opponent scoring: 51.1 (6th)
Field goal percentage: 49% (5th)
3-point FG percentage: 42.6% (2nd)
Opponent FG percentage: 45.4% (T-11th)
Plus/minus: +44 (6th)
Scoring: 45.6 points (30th)
Opponent scoring: 51.1 (10th)
Field goal percentage: 39.6% (30th)
3-point FG percentage: 26.9% (30th)
Opponent FG percentage: 43.1% (7th)
Plus/minus: -87 (30th)