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Miami Heat

Miami Heat

Five takeaways from the Heat’s 123-95 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena – Miami’s third blowout loss in its past four games.

1. Bad third quarters cost the Heat games earlier this season, and Sunday it really couldn’t afford to have another, but did. The Heat led early and kept the game close throughout the first half, trailing only by two points at the break. But in the third quarter, the floodgates opened as the Warriors outscored Miami 37-17 to break the game open and sweep the two-game season series.

“You can’t take away everything with that team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But as much as any team in the league, when they smell blood, they go for it. Right then, right then and right there, so many of their guys just come alive when they start to get it rolling. And each one of them becomes ignitable. We have a couple of guys that are ignitable. They have a roster full of guys that really start foaming at the mouth when the game starts to turn like that.”

The Warriors missed six of their first seven shots allowing the Heat to storm out to a 10-2 advantage. Golden State then made 46 of its next 77 (59.7 percent) and shot 56 percent for the game.
The Heat also had much more defensive success in the team’s first game against the Warriors in Oakland on Nov. 6, during which Miami held Golden State to 36.8 percent shooting despite losing 97-80.

But in the third quarter, the Warriors made 15 of 21 shots including 5 of 9 three-pointers as Steph Curry (30 points) and Kevin Durant (24 points) each did enough to damage to afford sitting out the final period.

“We really wanted to come in trying to take away some of the easy ones,” Spoelstra said. “So they got a bunch of easy ones to start that third quarter and then the dam broke. And then they started making the tough ones. The tough ones, as long as we’re not fouling and we’re getting a contest? OK, that’s one thing. But the disappointing thing was all the easy ones, even in the first half that were given up on a lack of discipline. The guys competed their butts off in the first half and we didn’t do it with enough discipline at both ends of the court.”

2. Despite loss, Goran Dragic snaps out of recent shooting funk. For the past week since earning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors, Dragic has been struggling with his shot. Dragic entered the game having made only 7 of his past 29 attempts. But on Sunday, Dragic looked more aggressive and didn’t back down from taking the tough shots. Dragic went 7 of 10 from the field and was a perfect 4 for 4 from three-point range to lead the Heat with 20 points.

“I don’t care about that,” Dragic said. “Even if the shot went in, we still lost the game. The most important thing is winning. Of course, it’s nice to see the ball go in but that doesn’t mean anything if you lose.”

3. Dion Waiters, a hero last year against the Warriors, goes cold shooting this time. Waiters missed the Heat’s first meeting against Golden State this season due to the birth of his daughter. Just hours after Durant, his good friend and former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate, sang his praises to the media, he found it difficult to find the mark with Durant guarding him throughout the first half. Waiters, who scored the game-winning three in last year’s win over the Warriors and hit two such clutch shots on Friday against Charlotte, went 1 for 10 from the field on Sunday and finished with only four points.

Waiters’ only worse game this season was when he went 0 for 10 in a 25-point loss to the Pacers on Nov. 19, but he also went 3 for 10 in the Heat’s loss to New York on Wednesday and 2 for 10 in an ugly Heat win against the Bulls on Nov. 26.

“I like the work that he’s been putting in,” Spoelstra said. “Now, in the last couple of weeks, it hasn’t necessarily been the results that we’ve wanted and I know he wants better results, as well. But I like the work that he’s been putting in. He’s been diligent about trying to take more responsibility, make better plays for the team. I thought he started the game very aggressive, getting to the basket, making some good ready. Then he missed some open ones and then the game just got out of control and in the second half it was tough to evaluate from there. He just has to stay with it and we’ll get him in spots where he can be aggressive.”

4. Bam Adebayo keeps learning and showing glimpses of his athleticism. Adebayo guarding Stephen Curry? It happened for a brief moment early in Sunday’s game. And Bam held his own pretty well. In a sequence during the second quarter, the Heat’s 6-foot, 10-inch rookie center kept up with the 6-3 Curry on the perimeter and forced him to pass to Durant, who then had a ball swatted away by Josh Richardson.

Adebayo made his third consecutive start while Hassan Whiteside continues to rehab his bruised left knee, and continued to impact the game in ways that don’t show up in the boxscore. Adebayo finished with nine points and two rebounds in 19 minutes and 56 seconds.

“It’s competitive nature,” Adebayo said. “I just go out there and play hard no matter who I’m guarding or what I’m doing. I’m just going out there to try and help my team.”

5. Although games have gotten out of hand quickly in its past three losses, Josh Richardson contributing more offensively is definitely a good thing. Coming off a career scoring night in which his 27 points helped the Heat beat the Hornets on Friday, Richardson again played well early on the offensive end against the Warriors.

Richardson has shot 27 of 48 (56.2 percent) and scored in double digits each time. This followed a three-game stretch in which Richardson shot only 3 of 19.

Richardson showed again how valuable he is on the defensive end especially in the first half delivering a highlight-worthy rejection of Durant on a drive to the basket. But if the Heat is to maintain consistency on the offensive end, it needs Richardson to continue to build off these recent performances.

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What the Miami Heat had here was a failure to communicate.

At least that’s what the Heat hope amid this 2-3 start, that such concerns have moved into the past tense, after a team meeting prior to Sunday’s practice at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“Every season is different,” guard Goran Dragic said. “Every season, it’s not like we expected to have immediately that chemistry like we finished the season.”

So the players hashed it out in real and raw terms.

“We had our discussions this morning,” forward James Johnson said. “We aired it out this morning. A lot of people took heat. I think it was the best thing for us to do, even more important than film. That’s what this culture is about, that’s what we’re about — staring guys in the eyes, telling guys the truth and that’s how you show you really love somebody.”

So they shared the love, in a somewhat visceral manner.

“We made a great step in the right direction today,” forward Justise Winslow said, with last season’s 11-30 start a haunting memory. “I mean it’s a concern of ours, but it’s not the end of the world.”

What Johnson said can’t happen is maintaining an ongoing Hassan Whiteside Watch, with the center having missed the past four games with a bone bruise on his left knee.

“We’re going to keep fighting through it and figure out ways to win without him, because you never know, it’s a long season. You never know … he might be out the rest of the season or he could be out a couple more games,” he said, exaggerating the possibilities as a way of making his point. “But we need to figure it out now.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra said Whiteside was limited to non-contact work Sunday, terming him “very doubtful” for Monday’s game against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves, the fifth game on this season-longest six-game homestand.

“We’d like to get him some contact,” Spoelstra said of the optimal plan before a Whiteside return, “but this was a good step.

“He certainly is making progress. That’s why we’re all encouraged, just to see him down here. He’s working, he’s jumping, he’s running, and hopefully there’s no pain tomorrow.”

Spoelstra also attempted to put perspective on the pain that led to Sunday’s team meeting.

“Every season’s different,” he said. “I love all the emotions that players go through. I don’t even care if it boils over. It means you care. And our guys in the locker room really care.

“This is not the type of start that our group wanted. You can’t guarantee anything in this league.”

The element that the Heat pride themselves on, and acknowledge has been missing, is intensity.

“That doesn’t mean we’re not working harder than everybody,” Johnson said. “That’s doesn’t mean we’re not the most physical. That just means that we’re not applying more effort. There’s got to be more effort to it.

“We all got to play with a chip on our shoulder. And we also all got to play with that edge again. We’re losing who we were and who we are. And that can’t happen on this team.”

Dragic said he did not regret his Saturday postgame comments comparing last season’s opening struggles to the current predicament.

“That’s why we addressed this so early,” he said. “We feel like everybody is on the same page now. We know what we need to do, as long as we put some work in. That’s why we had this meeting.

“On the floor, we don’t talk much and I think that’s a problem, because you need to be comfortable to say, ‘You need to be on the help side,’ ‘You need to do this for me.’ The list goes on and on.”

The grievances have been aired. Seventy-seven games remain.

“Guys were honest today,” Winslow said, “just opening up and being vulnerable and letting it all out there, not holding anything in. It can go a long way in this league — that honesty and connection part.”