Heat again blow lead, can’t finish
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.