Five takeaways from the Heat’s 131-113 blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena:
1. The Heat was historically bad on defense. Los Angeles, which started the season 12-27 but has since won 15 of its last 22, has an athletic young roster and the Heat knew this game wasn’t going to be a cakewalk. But the Lakers made it look easy from start to finish.
L.A. scored 22 points in transition (all in the first half) and 48 in the paint while shooting 59.5 percent from the field and 16 of 29 from three-point range.
The 131 points marked only the seventh time since Pat Riley took the reigns of the Heat’s franchise in 1995 that an opponent scored more than 125 points in regulation against Miami. Los Angeles did it last year too in a 127-100 blowout of Miami at home on Jan. 6.
The 131 points allowed by the Heat in regulation were the most since the Warriors blew out Miami 134-99 on March 7, 2008.
“We are much, much better than what we showed tonight defensively,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Let’s not take anything away from what they did and what they brought tonight. They came in here, played aggressively, got us on our heels and they deserved to have that kind of discrepancy in the score.”
2. The Heat simply doesn’t play well against teams that push the pace. Miami lost for the 11th time in 18 games this season against teams ranked in the top eight in the league pace. The Lakers lead the league in pace (Miami’s record versus the others: Warriors 0-2, Pelicans 0-2, Suns 1-0, 76ers 1-2, Clippers 2-0, Nets 1-2, Magic 2-2).
“They ran us out of the gym,” Heat All-Star point guard Goran Dragic said. “Their pace was really high, and we basically didn’t even defend. Then they got confidence and they were making shots. When we defended, after a while they made some tough shots, too. But it’s too much. They were shooting 60 percent from the field. Basically the game was in their ballpark. We can’t allow a team to score 130 points. It’s not good.
“We have athletic guys, but just the way they play. If you look in the past, with Brooklyn, they play fast. With all those teams, we have a little bit of trouble. You need to come ready for this game. If you’re not competing and running back, the first three or four steps, usually that’s a layup or an open three. Our conversion back to defense was not good and they took advantage of that.”
The Heat’s defensive breakdowns in the first half on transition are things players said can be fixed. Spoelstra will be sure to spend a lot of time reviewing film at practice on Friday. But players already know what they’ll see.
“I think we got back a couple times, but we weren’t matched,” Josh Richardson said. “Two guys here, two guys there and nobody on the ball. We're NBA players – we should be able to figure that out.”
3. Starters Hassan Whiteside and Kelly Olynyk were simply too slow on defense – especially in pick-and-rolls – and Spoelstra turned to rookie Bam Adebayo and veteran James Johnson to guard the Lakers’ bigs.
Olynyk, who returned to the starting lineup, played only 13 minutes and five seconds and was scoreless. He missed five shots, grabbed three rebounds and was minus-19 for the game. Whiteside played only 18 minutes, 30 seconds and had six points and seven rebounds and also finished minus-19.
“It was more about a matchup in the second half to play against their speed,” Spoelstra said of why he started Adebayo instead of Olynyk in the second half. “It wasn’t an individual matchup, but the speed of their first unit. It was something we had to contend with.”
The Heat has not been playing very good pick-and-roll defense of late.
“To have breakdowns in our defensive coverage, we practice a lot on it, and I know it will be something that will be a point of emphasis going forward,” Dwyane Wade said. “When you lose games that way it’s worse because you should be able to take away something. We didn’t take away anything tonight and that’s on all of us. It wasn’t one guy. All of us have to do a better job on the ball, on the bigs, guarding the guys off screens. We’ve got to do a better job.”
Said Richardson, who was a team-worst minus 30 in 36 minutes, on the breakdowns in pick-and-rolls: “I think it’s knowing coverages, knowing personnel. I think some guys, we have to play different with other guys. We have to figure it out more.”
4. Wade stayed hot, picking up where he left off offensively in Tuesday’s win over the Sixers. The 12-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion made his first six shots from the field Thursday and finished with 25 points on 11 of 18 shooting in 26 minutes off the bench.
“I thought he took great shots today,” Spoelstra said. “Everything came within the flow. That’s the shame. In 20, 25 minutes he has a night like that and it’s a blowout. To me that feels like a wasted night from him. We have to be a much better defense. This has not been our formula all year long. That’s what’s so perplexing. We have a ability to be one of the best defensive teams in the league. Our road map is pretty clear. And then we have games like this – home or away – where it just gets out of control.”
Wade said he’s still trying to familiarize himself with the Heat’s offense.
“Obviously offensively the last two games I found a couple of things that work,” he said. “Just continue to try to get better, as I said when I came here, try to continue to get in better shape so I can give this team more.
“I blew a couple of assignments offensively. I got to get more into the playbook. Coming out of a time out I missed one. I hate messing plays up out of a time out on any team that does that, I did it tonight. We got a turnover out of it. Just a lot more work to do.”
5. Even though Wade put Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball into a spin cycle with a pretty fadeaway bucket, he had high praise for the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft.
Ball finished with eight points, six rebounds, seven assists and six steals in 34 minutes for the Lakers. He was also a team-best plus 24 for the game.
“I’ve been a big fan of him,” Wade said. “I watched him play in college. He has a great feel for the game. He doesn’t play for statistics. He plays to win and he moves the ball. His IQ of the game is incredible, he’s athletic. Everybody talks about his shot, he’s been shooting that way his whole life. He can knock shots down. He’s good, man, he’s a good basketball player and everyone expects him to come in and be Kobe Bryant. Kobe Bryant wasn’t Kobe Bryant when he came in, he had to work toward it. He has a long career hopefully in front of him and we’ll see how it shakes out.”