Heat Shows Guts In San Antonio, Fall Short 94-90 for Fifth-Straight Loss

Recap6 years ago5 min readRob Slater

Five-game losing streaks are no fun, but for this HEAT team they just might be a necessary part of the process. Earlier this week, Pat Riley said Justise Winslow “needs more and more failure” to succeed faster with added experience.

On Monday night in San Antonio, the second-year forward and the HEAT got another dose of failure, falling short to the Spurs 94-90.

A loss it was, but not all was lost as Miami put together an encouraging showing in the second half, which nearly led to a road steal against one of the NBA’s most consistent franchises.

The first half looked like a practice drill for San Antonio, who got just about everything they wanted on the offensive end. LaMarcus Aldridge went a perfect 8-for-8, taking advantage of smaller matchups against Luke Babbit and Derrick Williams (who started his first game of the season) along with Hassan Whiteside’s inability to venture outside of the paint to contest his mid-range jumper.

When it wasn’t Aldridge, it was Pau Gasol and Kawhi Leonard who paced the Spurs to a 55-40 halftime lead. Miami’s offense was rendered inept, once again, as Gasol and Aldridge occupied Whiteside in the paint, stifling Miami in the half-court.

Despite staring an ugly road loss square in the face, the HEAT emerged from the locker room an inspired team. They finally turned their defense into offense, letting their fast pace create better scoring opportunities.

Yes, Miami fell four points shy of a win, and while nobody is handing out moral victories, the offense’s execution in the second half needs to be the blueprint moving forward.

Let’s break down specifically what went right and wrong for the HEAT on a night where they picked up their fifth-straight loss.

What Went Right

• Tyler Johnson: The $50 million man fueled the entire team when they needed it tonight on a sturdy 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists. But it was his activity, ball movement and pacing of the offense that proved to be far more worthwhile. In Goran Dragic’s absence, Johnson proved the value of his role as backup point guard/sixth man.

• Interior Defense: Much of the second half near-comeback started with the stingy inside play of Whiteside, James Johnson and Derrick Williams (Willie Reed was a DNP). Aldridge was held without a field goal after his flawless start, and Gasol was given similar troubles after the break as Miami’s big men cleaned up their first half mistakes. With Dwight Howard coming to the AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday, this should be an encouraging sign.

• Hassan Whiteside: While Pat Riley gushed to David Aldridge about the HEAT’s new franchise center, Riley encouraged Whiteside to become an “all-the-time-guy.” After a slow start, Whiteside morphed into just that especially in the second half, powering through a packed paint and to the tune of 23 points and 17 rebounds. Whiteside routinely dealt with triple teams from the Spurs’ (soon-to-be) Hall of Fame frontline, and met it with the type of force Riley and those wishing him to succeed are looking for.


What Went Wrong

• Free-Throw Shooting: It’s staggering that an NBA team can be this bad from the charity stripe. When you’re down 15 points at halftime, eight missed free throws don’t seem all that impactful, but losing by four with nine missed free throws leaves you kicking yourself at the end of the night. The HEAT maintained their dead last ranking in team free-throw percentage, just one point (67.2 percent) below their Tuesday night opponent: the Atlanta Hawks.

• Missed Layups: Free throws and layups are fundamental parts of the game, so you’re once again kicking yourself. Dion Waiters was the high man with 27 points but was 6-for-13 at the rim, and the HEAT as a team moved to 53.6 percent from inside five feet. The difficult part about losing this game is thinking how much easier it could’ve been if they did the little things correctly.

• Justise Winslow: Winslow’s first matchup with Kawhi Leonard on Oct. 30 saw the 20-year old stand up to the Finals MVP. This time, he shrunk. Winslow is in a funk. There aren’t many other ways to put it. A dismal 3-for-12 from the field, including a terrifying airball to end the first half was just one of his many lowlights on the night. Defensively, Winslow looked slow and lost, not yielding much resistance as Leonard poured in 24 points of his own. This is what Riley was referring to when he said Winslow needed more failure, so let’s see how he responds against Atlanta.

The fact remains: The HEAT don’t know yet how to win games as a team. They’re close, certainly a lot closer than their 2-7 record shows. Losing to this Spurs team twice by a combined seven points is an encouraging sign in an of itself, but looking back at how many small, fundamental miscues went terribly wrong, it’s hard to hang your hat on a moral victory.

This is a team that needs to start making it easier on themselves, otherwise, the losses will continue to pile up, and so will the impatience of the team’s president.