Five takeaways from the Heat’s stinging 103-100 loss to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena:
▪ This was seemingly rock bottom, losing to a dreadful Washington team that entered 4-13 and was playing without All-Star guard Russell Westbrook.
Now 7-14, the Heat certainly cannot blame injuries for these dumbfounding consecutive home losses to Charlotte and Washington. Miami had everyone available on Wednesday except Meyers Leonard, Maurice Harkless and Chris Silva. Avery Bradley left in the fourth quarter with a sprained left calf.
Instead, blame a dismal 35-point second half, too many turnovers, poor second half shooting (1 for 9 on threes in the fourth) and too many threes relinquished (15 by the Wizards, on 40.7 percent shooting).
“There are some points in that game you can’t even explain,” Erik Spoelstra said afterward. “Everyone is disappointed. The staff and players alike, we want to be better than what we’ve shown. You have to continue to forge ahead. Some of us have had experience being able to turn seasons around. You can’t allow it to be bigger than it is. We’ve had a couple of disappointing losses. We have to stay together, stay the course and try to get one win.”
Down 96-89, the Heat rode a 9-2 run to tie the game but couldn’t generate enough offense down the stretch. Jimmy Butler (19 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds) missed a jumper and another shot in the basket area and Goran Dragic’s difficult contorting layup was well defended by Alex Len with nine seconds left.
After that Dragic miss, Miami squandered three seconds before fouling Bradley Beal, who hit two free throws with 5.8 seconds to go, putting Washington up three.
After a timeout, Tyler Herro – who led Miami with 20 points – failed to hit rim on an off-balance three-pointer before the buzzer.
Why wasn’t Duncan Robinson in the game for those final seconds, with the Heat down three?
“I easily could have [used him],” Spoelstra said. “I felt that group had a little bit of a sweat and rhythm. The trigger was going to Tyler at that point. I can review it and analyze it again.”
What’s the feeling in the locker-room, with the Heat now owning the fourth-worst record in the league?
“There’s frustration,” Robinson said. “This is a super competitive group with high expectations. We’re surprised it’s not going according to plan. We’re looking for solutions.”
Then Robinson said something that stood out: “We’ve got to start playing for each other more. That’s not to say one person is sticking the ball or anything like that. It’s everyone.”
Herro expressed similar sentiments about needing to play for each other.
Butler said one issue is “we’re just not making shots. When we’re not making shots, it kind of gives us an excuse to not go down there and play defense. If we’re making shots, we actually guard decently well. We’ve got to grow up in the sense of we’re relying on the offensive end. We’ve got to be who we say we are: a grind it out dog type team. We aren’t that right now.”
Bam Adebayo’s reaction to the 7-14 start? “All of us don’t want the season to be like this. All of us are obviously upset.”
As Herro put it: “We dug ourselves this hole and we have to dig ourselves out of it.”
▪ The offensive collapse was stunning against the league’s worst defensive team.
After scoring 65 points on 55 percent shooting in the first half, the Heat shot just 12 for 41 overall in the second half (29.3 percent) and 5 for 23 on threes.
Nine second-half turnovers didn’t help, either.
The Wizards flummoxed Miami with some zone defense in the second half, and the Heat’s offense looked disjointed, which has too often been the case this season.
In the second half, Butler shot 2 for 7, Robinson shot 0 for 3, Herro 1 for 6 and Dragic 2 for 7.
Overall, Miami closed at 43.4 percent from the field and 34 percent on threes (12 for 35). Kelly Olynyk finished the night 2 for 9, Robinson 3 for 9 and Dragic 4 for 11.
“We just have to be better,” Spoelstra said of an offense that entered ranked 25th in efficiency. “It’s as simple as that. We’re working on a lot of things right now. We had some possessions we got what we wanted and we weren’t able to capitalize. That happens. We still had an opportunity to win at the end and we weren’t able to do it.
“We’re working on continuity during live NBA games. It’s not an excuse; nobody is going to feel sorry for us.”
▪ Herro started well, but struggled after halftime against a team that’s potentially important for him to impress.
If the Wizards ever make Beal available, any Heat package likely would need to include Tyler Herro.
And Herro was great for his first six quarters against the Wizards this season, producing 31 points and 9 rebounds in their first meeting this season and delivering 17 points on 7 for 9 shooting in the first half on Wednesday.
But the second half was a struggle, with Herro shooting 1 for 6 on threes and committing a turnover.
Herro is shooting just 32.5 percent on three-pointers, down from 38.9 last season. His overall shooting percentage is actually higher than a year ago (45.3 from 42.8).
“We just need to be better, myself included,” Herro said.
As for Beal, he scored 32, including a beautiful drive to put Washington up three late. He fell just under his league-leading 35 points per game scoring average. He has not asked for a trade, and Washington has shown no inclination to deal him.
▪ With the Heat (mostly) healthy, Spoelstra’s rotation is gaining clarity but might need further tinkering after another disappointing performance.
Spoelstra again used five off the bench: Dragic (28 minutes), Andre Iguodala (21 minutes), Precious Achiuwa (13 minutes), Bradley (13 minutes before his injury) and Max Strus, who logged just three minutes.
That meant no Kendrick Nunn, who wasn’t used for the third consecutive game.
Strus, after a 19-point outburst on Monday against Charlotte, went scoreless during his brief appearance, missing his only shot.
Dragic struggled with his shot for a second game in a row.
The Heat played poorly when Butler and Adebayo (who had 17 points and 11 rebounds) were both out of the game for a stretch in the third quarter.
Of those minutes without his two max players on the floor, Spoelstra said: “We still had an opportunity to make some plays. There was a stretch the ball was going right through our hands. That’s just the way it shook out.”
And in part because of player absences this season, the Heat hasn’t found a five-man bench unit that has given them any consistent advantage over the opposition.
▪ Meyers Leonard’s biggest remaining contribution to the Heat could be through other transactions.
Leonard had successful season-ending shoulder surgery on Tuesday, and Miami is expected to be granted a $4.7 million disabled player exception, which should put the Heat in the running for any appealing player who receives a buyout.
That exception also can be used in a trade for a player in the final year of his contract.
But here’s the bad news: If an attractive player shakes free in the buyout market, there will be two teams in better position than Miami: Golden State, which has a $9.3 million disabled player exception in the wake of Klay Thompson’s injury before the season, and Brooklyn, which has a $5.7 million exception resulting from Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury. The deadline for any of those teams to use that exception is April 19.
The Heat also has a $7.6 million trade exception that expires March 22, but that won’t help Miami in the buyout market.
It’s unlikely the Heat would cut Leonard to free up a roster spot because his $10.1 million team option for next season might need to be exercised merely to help facilitate a sign-and-trade for a free agent.
As for Leonard, he texted Spoelstra after his surgery.
“If anyone can handle and stay positive that’s Meyers,” Spoelstra said. “Even coming out of surgery, he’s texting me, asking how the film session and meeting went. I love the guy. I feel for him. It’s a bummer. He’s just a great guy to have on a team.”
Here’s my Wednesday piece on the Heat power forward trade options and the pros and cons of each.