Heat again blow lead, can’t fin­ish

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Ira Win­der­man

MI­AMI – It was kid stuff again Satur­day night for the Mi­ami Heat. Lately, there has been lit­tle choice. With Dwyane Wade away from the team for a third con­sec­u­tive game fol­low­ing the birth of his daugh­ter, and with Go­ran Dragic un­able to con­trib­ute af­ter miss­ing the pre­vi­ous two games with a swollen knee, it again was youth move­ment or bust for the Heat.

On a night Rod­ney McGruder scored a ca­reer-high 22 points, clos­ing time be­came closed-out time, with the Heat fall­ing 116-110 to the Washington Wiz­ards at Amer­i­canAir­lines Arena, their fifth loss in the last seven games.

As was the case a night ear­lier in the loss to the vis­it­ing In­di­ana Pac­ers, the Heat built a dou­ble-digit lead, held a fourth-quar­ter ad­van­tage, but ul­ti­mately wilted.

John Wall led the Wiz­ards with 28, with back­court part­ner Bradley Beal scor­ing 18.

With Dion Wait­ers and James John­son still side­lined, di­rec­tion seem­ingly has be­come an is­sue, amid the re­al­ity of Satur­day's Jimmy Butler shift to the Philadel­phia 76ers that there are no easy an­swers out there.

"Our guys' hearts are in the right place. That's the thing," coach Erik Spoel­stra said go­ing in. "When you get to know this locker room, it's a very hard-work­ing, am­bi­tious group.

"We just have to di­rect that am­bi­tion col­lec­tively in a way where ev­ery­body's help­ing each other. We'll get there."

Just not yet, as the Heat fell to 3-4 at home, dur­ing what was sup­posed to be a fa­vor­able por­tion of the sched­ule.

Josh Richard­son led the Heat with 24 points, with cen­ter Has­san White­side adding an 11-point, 16-re­bound dou­ble-dou­ble.

Five de­grees of Heat from Fri­day's game:

1. Dragic back: Dragic was back af­ter miss­ing the pre­vi­ous two games with a sore right knee and three of the pre­vi­ous four games when count­ing last Satur­day's absence in the loss to the At­lanta Hawks with a sore foot.

Wear­ing a pro­tec­tive sleeve on his right leg, Dragic ap­peared ten­ta­tive, go­ing 0 for 4 with three turnovers in the first half.

With Dragic back, Wayne Elling­ton re­turned to a re­serve role.

Dragic was forced to the bench with his fourth foul with 6:08 to play in the third quar­ter, score­less to that stage on 0-for-7 shoot­ing. He did not re­turn, play­ing 21 score­less min­utes.

With Dragic off, it again raised the ques­tion of a team op­er­at­ing one player shy of the 15-man ros­ter limit not car­ry­ing a spare true point guard -- at least un­til the ros­ter again is whole.

Jus­tise Winslow ran the Heat of­fense when Dragic was on the bench.

2. Rod­ney rev­e­la­tion: McGruder con­tin­ues as a rev­e­la­tion, both with his 3-point shoot­ing and at­tack­ing play in tran­si­tion.

McGruder sur­passed his pre­vi­ous ca­reer high of 20 points with a bas­ket late in the third-pe­riod.

McGruder then was called for his fourth foul with 1:53 left in the third, forced to the bench.

For all he is able to of­fer, McGruder as lead­ing man hardly sets up as the pre­ferred op­tion.

3. Caught in the slop: A night af­ter the Heat com­mit­ted a sea­son-high 24 turnovers The Heat’s Go­ran Dragic drives to the hoop in the first half Satur­day night.

in Fri­day night's loss to the In­di­ana Pac­ers, the Heat were up to 11 by half­time, which fu­eled 17 of the Wiz­ards' 58 first-half points, al­low­ing them to stand within three at the break af­ter trail­ing by 12 ear­lier in the first half.

This is not ex­actly a mar­gin-for-er­ror team. Lately, those er­rors have pre­vented the Heat from ex­tend­ing early leads.

4. Elling­ton mat­ter: Elling­ton again con­trib­uted from the 3-point line off the bench and showed how he mat­ters in to­day's higher-scor­ing NBA.

It will be in­ter­est­ing in the Heat's back­court once Wade re­turns from his per­sonal leave and then even­tu­ally when Wait­ers re­turns.

The ini­tial thought was Tyler John­son could be the player los­ing min­utes, but John­son con­tin­ues to re­gain his foot­ing, this time with 12 first-half points, pro­vid­ing a 3-point threat to com­ple­ment to Elling­ton off the bench.

5. Pass­ing fancy: White­side had three first-half as­sists, a sea­son high and one shy of his ca­reer sin­gle-game high, clos­ing with that to­tal. It was the sec­ond time in three games he had mul­ti­ple-as­sist out­ings.

White­side, though, strug­gled on his box outs against Dwight Howard, al­low­ing the Wiz­ards big man to gain a foothold in the game af­ter an un­even start.

White­side com­pleted his eighth dou­ble­dou­ble be­fore the end of the third quar­ter (with re­bounds, not as­sists).

Along the way, White­side recorded his

700th ca­reer block.

MICHAEL LAUGHLIN/SUN SEN­TINEL

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