Heat must im­prove vs. low-qual­ity teams

Miami Herald - - SPORTS - BY BARRY JACK­SON bjack­[email protected]­ami­her­ald.com

About 15 hours re­moved from one of the Heat’s most-im­pres­sive wins of the sea­son, a 115-99 na­tion­ally tele­vised thump­ing of Bos­ton, Heat coach Erik Spoel­stra ar­rived for his Fri­day me­dia brief­ing thor­oughly dis­pleased, mak­ing clear that what his team served up in the first half of the sea­son sim­ply isn’t good enough.

“I’m not happy about where we are,” he said re­peat­edly, with his 20-20 team reach­ing the mid­point of its sea­son Saturday against vis­it­ing Mem­phis. “We’re not happy about where we are. Yes­ter­day was yes­ter­day. It was a great com­pet­i­tive game on a Thurs­day night. [Saturday] is the game I want to see a dif­fer­ence in our ap­proach.”

Spoel­stra de­clined to specif­i­cally say what is up­set­ting him, be­yond the usual in­con­sis­tency in play. But Tyler John­son made clear the staff is up­set with the vol­ume of losses to teams be­low .500.

Mi­ami is 5-10 against the six teams di­rectly be­low the Heat in the Eastern Con­fer­ence stand­ings, in­clud­ing 0-3 against both Char­lotte and At­lanta and 1-2 against Orlando. The Heat is .500 against both teams above .500 and be­low .500 at the time Mi­ami played them.

“The thing is, it’s not the top teams we worry about,” John­son said. “It’s the be­low-.500 teams and non­play­off teams we have an is­sue with. This team is re­ally tal­ented and we get up for those games, for the Bostons, Mil­wau­kees, Toron­tos, Den­vers. It’s the be­low-.500 teams we strug­gle with. They’re still in the NBA, re­gard­less of what their record is . ... You have to show them the same re­spect you show other peo­ple.” John­son notes the Heat could have been six or seven games above .500 if it had won more of those games against sub­par teams.

“If we just took care of non­play­off teams and be­low-.500 teams, ba­si­cally we could be in fourth place right now [in­stead of sixth in the East],” he said.

Dwyane Wade said “no one wants to sit at .500 [or be­low] . ... The goal is to be bet­ter each year. To reach that, we’ve got to play bet­ter in the se­cond half than we did in the first half. I think we’re a bet­ter team than 20-20, but we’re 20-20.”

So any de­light over climb­ing back to .500 from a 7-13 hole has long since dis­si­pated, re­placed by the frus­tra­tion of losses to lot­tery teams and an abil­ity to build on last year’s 44-38.

“We’re still .500, so it’s about where we’ve been in this whole three sea­sons we’ve kind of been to­gether,” John­son said. “So it’s prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit frus­trat­ing for ev­ery­body.”

RO­TA­TION EXPANDS

Spoel­stra went 11 deep in the first half Thurs­day, which is rare for him, and Wade said there is a ben­e­fit to that be­cause “you play your min­utes hard. We have a lot of light guys, so you just keep bring­ing it more and more and more.

“Ev­ery­one wants to get to a short ro­ta­tion, right? Ev­ery­one wants to get to a nine-man ro­ta­tion, but we got mul­ti­ple guys that can play and it’s a long sea­son, so I think it’s good for us right now.”

But John­son, who was the 11th to en­ter Thurs­day’s game, spoke can­didly Fri­day about the chal­lenge of hav­ing so many sim­i­larly skilled play­ers on the ros­ter.

“It’s easy to be­come im­pa­tient be­cause you feel like the ball is not com­ing your way a few times and maybe you feel per­son­ally like it could,” he said. “The fact of the mat­ter is there are ba­si­cally 14, 15 guys on the team that can re­ally play bas­ket­ball, can im­pact a win. We were talk­ing about it the other day that pretty much up and down the ros­ter, any­body on our team can give you 20 in a night. That’s very unique to have on the team.

“Some­times there is a lit­tle bit of im­pa­tience that comes with that. But when we’re go­ing, we’re re­ally go­ing, it’s find­ing the bal­ance of be­ing able to be men­tally sta­ble and un­der­stand it’s not al­ways go­ing to be your night. Some nights, it’s other peo­ple.”

Wade re­it­er­ated plans to re­tire at sea­son’s end but said sev­eral NBA play­ers have asked him why he doesn’t keep play­ing.

“A lot of the guys are like, ‘Man, you got two years; you got three years.’ And I ap­pre­ci­ate it,” he said. “I’m thank­ful that they say that be­cause I al­ways wanted to walk away from this game with my head up high. I feel like if I have a suc­cess­ful sea­son, if my team has a suc­cess­ful sea­son, I could walk away just feel­ing good about how I ended my ca­reer.”

Wade was amused when in­formed that TNT’s stu­dio an­nounc­ers tried to come up with new nick­names for him dur­ing Thurs­day’s postgame show. Charles Barkley sug­gested “Ger­i­tol Je­sus,” re­fer­ring to the vi­ta­min sup­ple­ment.

“Got to give it to him, that’s funny,” Wade said.

“Ab­sor­bine Ju­nior Wade” was also men­tioned, re­fer­ring to a pain re­lief prod­uct. And ESPN’s Michael Wil­bon texted Barkley with “Flash­back,” a play off his for­mer nick­name, “Flash.”

Barry Jack­son: 305-376-3491, @flas­ports­buzz

PATRICK FAR­RELL pfar­[email protected]­ami­her­ald.com

Erik Spoel­stra em­pha­sized Fri­day that he’s not happy ‘about where we are,’ re­fer­ring to Mi­ami’s 5-10 record against the six teams di­rectly be­low the Heat in the Eastern Con­fer­ence stand­ings,

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