Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 94-90 loss to the San Antonio Spurs

SAN ANTONIO — It’s been a while since the Heat’s last win.

Miami fell to 2-7 this season in a 94-90 road loss to the Spurs on Monday. The Heat have now lost five consecutive games — their first five-game losing streak since March 8, 2011.

“We’re not even 10 games into the season,” center Hassan Whiteside said. “We’re not getting down. We had a tough schedule so far, so we’re going to keep pushing. We played the Spurs great.”

Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters (11) drives on San Antonio Spurs forward Danny Green (14) during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Ronald Cortes)

Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters (11) drives on San Antonio Spurs forward Danny Green (14) during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Ronald Cortes)

It doesn’t get much easier for the Heat, as they travel home to face the Hawks (7-2) Tuesday on the second night of a challenging back-to-back set. Miami’s last win came on Nov. 1 against the Kings.

“We just came up short and that’s pretty much been our Achilles’ heel since the beginning of the season – just not closing games out and trying to figure it out,” Heat guard Dion Waiters said. “It’s a long season – 82 games – that’s the best part about it. But we can’t continue to just keep taking losses. It’s going to haunt us. We got to pull a couple wins together, string them along and get better and trust the process and enjoy the process along the way.”

The Spurs (8-3) took a 6-4 lead with 8:54 remaining in the first quarter and never let it go, with the Heat trailing by as much as 18. Miami cut San Antonio’s lead to four in the fourth quarter and held the Spurs to 26.2 percent shooting in the second half, but the Heat couldn’t complete the comeback.

“The second half was probably one of our better defensive halves and we’ve had some really good defensive halves in games this year,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s about as hard and connected as we’ve competed on that end against a very good, well schooled offensive team. They made us pay for every single mistake.

“Right now we’ve got to continue to put together these building blocks and then get home and we’ve got a big game tomorrow.”

Whiteside finished with 23 points and 17 rebounds. It marked Whiteside’s eighth double-double in nine games this season.

Waiters finished with a team-high 27 points, including 16 points in the fourth quarter.

Here are our five takeaways from the game …

1. Heat need Goran Dragic back … now: The Heat’s offense wasn’t much better when Goran Dragic was healthy in the first six games. But it’s clear that Miami doesn’t have another player on its roster who possesses Dragic’s point guard skills. Miami’s pace is noticeably slower with Dragic not on the court, as the Heat finished with 81 shots against the Jazz and 85 shots against the Spurs with Dragic out. That’s down from Miami’s season average of 86.1 shots per game. The good news for the Heat is that Dragic could be close to returning from a sprained left ankle. The 30-year-old took off his walking boot Monday and swelling is down.

2. Hassan Whiteside needs more touches: With the way Miami’s roster is built, the Heat’s offense should go through center Hassan Whiteside. Yet there are some offensive possessions where he doesn’t even touch the ball. Whiteside finished Monday’s loss with 11 shots and made nine of them. By comparison, Dion Waiters took 26 shots and Justise Winslow took 12 shots. Take out Whiteside’s 9-of-11 shooting performance and the rest of team shot 37.8 percent from the field.

3. Where is Willie Reed?: It’s been a few games since we’ve seen reserve center Willie Reed play extended minutes. Through the first seven games, Reed was averaging 14 minutes of playing time per game as the Heat’s first center off the bench. But then Josh McRoberts returned and Reed has seen very limited action. Reed played two minutes against Utah on Saturday and didn’t play at all against the Spurs on Monday. What’s changed? Instead of Reed, McRoberts has been Miami’s first center off the bench when starting center Hassan Whiteside needs a breather. Erik Spoelstra likely made this change because of Reed’s defense. Players have shot 60 percent — 13.1 percent above their normal shooting percentage — with Reed defending them through the first eight games.

4. Heat miss way too many free throws: How bad is it? Well, the Heat entered Monday’s game as the second-worst free-throw shooting team at 68.5 percent. And Miami shot even worse than its season average against the Spurs, finishing the loss 12-of-21 from the line (57.1 percent. With the Heat’s offense struggling to score points this season, the free-throw line should be seen as a safe haven. Instead, Miami is losing some games at the line.

“Guys are working on it,” Erik Spoelstra said of the Heat’s struggles at the free-throw line. “That’s fine. I don’t want to make it a bigger deal than it is. I would be more disappointed if guys weren’t working at it. I like the fact guys are getting to the line and getting 48 attempts in the paint.

5. Expect more rotation changes: Miami used the same starting lineup in each of its first seven games. But those first seven games were an aberration. Games eight and nine have featured new Heat starting lineups. On Monday against the Spurs, the change was at power forward. Derrick Williams started in place of Luke Babbitt. The starting lineup of of center Hassan Whiteside, Williams, small forward Justise Winslow, shooting guard Dion Waiters and point guard Josh Richardson was outscored 17-10 to start Monday’s game. So don’t think that Erik Spoelstra is done experimenting with this roster. “We’ll do whatever is necessary,” Spoelstra said when asked about his rotation before Monday’s game. After a 2-7 start to the season, the Heat are still looking for the best rotation combination. And when shooting guard Wayne Ellington returns from a thigh contusion, the rotation will likely change again. For a roster that features seven new players, this isn’t a surprise.

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