Go­ing .500 on road trip lifts Heat

Team be­gin­ning to look like Spoel­stra ex­pected af­ter tough West swing.

The Palm Beach Post - - SPORTS - By Tom D’An­gelo Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

The Heat would have

DETROIT — pre­ferred to re­turn home from their long­est road trip of the sea­son feel­ing bet­ter about Sun­day’s game. But look­ing at the big pic­ture, Miami will take split­ting six games, es­pe­cially when five of those were against teams from out West.

The Heat (6-7) now get back to fa­mil­iar sur­round­ings to start

another chal­leng­ing stretch. Miami faces Washington twice — at home Wed­nes­day and in D.C. Fri­day — be­fore home games against Indi

ana and Bos­ton next week.

“We fi­nally get to go back home for a lit­tle bit,” Josh Richard­son said.

“We def­i­nitely can take ad­van­tage ... rest a lit­tle bit and get ready to go again.”

Miami has not had the start to the sea­son it ex­pected, but this trip was far more suc­cess­ful than its long­est of the 2016-17 sea­son (1-5), and the team showed some growth.

The Heat started to look like the team we’ve be­come ac­cus­tomed to see­ing un­der coach Erik Spoel­stra. The pace slowed, which is more to their style, and the de­fense picked up.

“We would have loved to fin­ish

above .500 but we took a lot of good things away that we can use,” Tyler John­son said.

“De­fen­sively is where we fig­ured some things out. We kind of took maybe like a half step back (against Detroit) as far as our de­fen­sive pres­sure a nd i nten­sity, but that doesn’t take away from they’re a good team and they have the record they have (10-3) for a rea­son. But I think de­fen­sively and just fig­ur­ing out where our iden­tity is, I think that’s where we made the most strides.”

Miami wilted dur­ing the se­cond half of Sun­day’s 112-103 loss to the Pis­tons, per­haps more a prod­uct of fa­tigue from be­ing on the road for 11 days and think­ing about fi­nally get­ting back home.

The Pis­tons scored 57 points and shot 53.8 per­cent in the se­cond half, over­com­ing an 11-point third-quar­ter deficit.

“I feel like I’m get­ting off pun­ish­ment,” said Has­san White­side, who made it clear he was anx­ious to get on the plane. “It feels like we’ve been on the road for two months now. It’s go­ing to be good to sleep in your own bed and get to see your house and get back in front of Heat fans.”

Even with the se­cond-half hic­cup in Detroit, Miami ended the six games al­low­ing 99.0 points per game while its op­po­nents shot 41.6 per­cent. Miami also has the sixth-best de­fen­sive rat­ing, at 99.9, since the start of the trip.

Com­pare those num­bers in the last six games to the first seven of the sea­son, six of which were at home. Miami gave up 106.6 points per game while op­po­nents shot 45.9 per­cent. Miami was 17th in the league with a de­fen­sive rat­ing of 104.9.

The de­fen­sive high­lights of the trip: Hold­ing the jug- ger­naut War­riors to sea­son lows of 97 points and 36.8 per­cent shoot­ing (the prob- lem was the Heat could man­age just 80 points in the loss). And lim­it­ing Utah to 5.6 per­cent shoot­ing (1 of 18) in the third quar­ter and 12.1 per­cent (4 of 33) in the se­cond half to over­come a 12-point half­time deficit for a throw - back 84-74 vic­tory.

“When you’re on the road, the team gets closer, you hang out to­gether,” Go­ran

Dragic said. “When you’re at home, you have dif­fer­ent types of (dis­trac­tions). But here you only think about bas­ket­ball. We hang out a lot. We talk a lot. Yeah, we fin­ished 3-3. If you look at the first one in Den­ver (95

94 loss), we could have fin­ished 4-2. It’s a tough one to swal­low.

“But it was a good road DETROIT — Udo­nis Haslem trip.” is feel­ing pretty good about

The Heat con­tinue to hover his home­town foot­ball team around .500, which is not ... and it’s not the Miami Dol- alarm­ing this early in the seaphins. son. But at some point, they Haslem got to watch the will have to start win­ning at Univer­sity of Miami de­stroy a greater rate to prove the Notre Dame, 41-8,Satur­day growth they showed dur­ing night with his son, Ke­do­nis, the se­cond half of last seaa fresh­man of­fen­sive line- son will carry over to this man on the Toledo foot­ball sea­son. team. Haslem met his son in

That won’t be easy, at least Toledo af­ter the Heat landed not in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture. in Detroit.

Af­ter play­ing three of the The only thing that surnext four at home, Miami prised Udo­nis was the ease has another daunt­ing stretch of Miami’s vic­tory. with seven of the next nine “I fig­ured they’d win,” games on the road. Haslem said. “I didn’t know

“We grew. We took steps how bad it would be. I mean, for­ward. We got bet­ter as a it’s a very im­por­tant game. A team,” said Dion Wait­ers, lot of his­tory in that game. I who missed two games of think UM came out and took the trip, re­turn­ing home it per­son­ally, which they to wit­ness the birth of his should have.” daugh­ter. “It’s early. We’ve Haslem, the Heat cap­tain, got a chance to make cor- was a mem­ber of the Univer­rec­tions right now. sity of Florida’s NCAA Fi­nal

“Just keep mov­ing forFour team of 2000 that lost ward. We’re get­ting bet­ter. the cham­pi­onship game to We’re mov­ing in the right Michi­gan State. While he di­rec­tion.” re­mains a Ga­tor, he still roots for the col­lege team he fol­lowed as a kid grow­ing up in Miami.

“I hate to say it but the Hur­ri­canes were al­most as big as the Dol­phins,” he said. “Peo­ple like the Dol­phins, of course, and I’m a big Dol­phins fan, but peo­ple were like Hur­ri­canes first and then Dol­phins se­cond. (That) is kind of like how it was grow­ing up.

“It’s big, man. I think the city has been wait­ing for those guys to get back on top and bring that swag­ger back to the team and to the city. Start by get­ting those home­town kids and con­tinue to get it go­ing.”

Haslem spared Heat as­sis­tant Chris Quinn, a Notre Dame grad­u­ate who played for the Ir­ish from 2002-03 to 2005-06, any grief ... for now. Quinn also spent parts of six sea­sons in the NBA, three of those with the Heat where he was Haslem’s team­mate.

“I didn’t get on Quinn as hard as I could. We’ve got one game left,” Haslem said, re­fer­ring to the Dec. 2 ACC ti­tle game, where the Hur­ri­canes will face Clem­son.

“We have to take care of busi­ness.”

De­spite a 6-7 record, Erik Spoel­stra says Heat are de­vel­op­ing their iden­tity.


Heat for­ward James John­son (left) dunks the ball against Pis­tons for­ward Eric More­land dur­ing the first half Sun­day in Detroit.

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