PHILADELPHIA — The Heat’s winning streak didn’t last long.
The 76ers defeated the Heat 101-94 on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center to snap Miami’s two-game winning streak. The Heat are now 4-9 this season.
Despite a career night for Whiteside, Miami’s offense struggled. The Heat shot 38.6 percent from the field to lose to the struggling 76ers (4-10).
“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said. “We had only one player who was really dominating — Whiteside. We need more. We got the good looks, but we couldn’t connect.”
The game was tied 91-91 with 3:38 remaining in the contest. But Philadelphia closed the game on a 10-3 run to earn the victory.
Here are our five takeaways from the game …
1. Hassan Whiteside is proving his worth: The Heat’s center has been the team’s most consistent player this season. That wasn’t the case the past two seasons. Center Hassan Whiteside finished Monday’s game with a career-high 32 points to go with 13 rebounds and two blocks. It marked his 12th double-double in 13 games this season. The NBA’s leading rebounder has finished with 15 or more rebounds in eight games. If Whiteside can sustain this level of consistency, it’s going to be hard to argue against the Heat’s decision to give him a max contract this past summer.
The only issue with Whiteside’s performance Monday was foul trouble. He picked up his fifth foul with 3:24 remaining in the game and Erik Spoelstra decided to substitute him out for Udonis Haslem, and the 76ers went on a 5-0 run in the 57 seconds Whiteside was on the bench.
“It’s very tough,” Whiteside said about being taken out late in the game. “Guys take pride in defense. You slide your feet and then they’re blowing the whistle, so it’s tough at times. But I’m not going to foul out, so I don’t know why I came out. I don’t really know what to say about that.”
2. Offense still an issue: After the Heat scored 114 points on 50.6 percent shooting against the Wizards on Saturday, Miami’s offense came back down to earth in Philadelphia. Miami scored 94 points on 38.6 percent shooting and made 7-of-31 shots from three-point range. Outside of Whiteside’s dominant performance, the rest of the Heat shot 30.4 percent from the field. Miami entered with the fourth-worst offensive rating in the NBA, scoring 97.9 points per 100 possessions. Offense is clearly still a work in progress for the Heat.
“If we’re shooting under 40 percent, it has to be one of our defensive games that we’re capable of,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And them shooting almost 50 percent, it’s going to be tough for us to win under those circumstances.”
3. Heat need an aggressive Goran Dragic: The Heat’s offense looks different when point guard Goran Dragic is in attack mode. Entering Monday’s game, Dragic was averaging 14.3 shots per game in wins this season — about two more shots than he’s taken in losses. He’s also averaging 5.8 free-throw attempts in wins this season — about three more free throws than he’s shot in losses. That’s not a coincidence. Miami is a better offensive team when Dragic is aggressive. But Dragic was quiet in Monday’s loss with 10 points on 13 shots.
4. Free-throw shooting continues to be a concern: This continues to be one of Miami’s biggest weaknesses. The Heat entered Monday’s game as the worst free-throw shooting team in the NBA. And the struggles continued Monday in Philadelphia with Miami making 19-of-28 free throws. The Heat are now shooting 65.8 percent from the free-throw line this season. That’s a big drop off from last season when Miami made 74.5 percent of its free throws. Erik Spoelstra has been trying to downplay the issue, saying it’s something that can be corrected. But for a team that’s been outscored by 0.9 points per game this season, missed free throws can be painful.
5. Justise Winslow might be best power forward on roster: Erik Spoelstra has given Luke Babbitt and Derrick Williams a chance to start a stretch of games this season, and neither has proven they deserve the job yet. And James Johnson is not really an option to start games right now, as Spoelstra likes his energy off the bench. That means forward Justise Winslow could end up as the Heat’s starting power forward when he returns from a sprained left wrist. Winslow is averaging 11.6 points on 33.1 percent shooting to go with 4.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists this season. But the hope is that the lefty will shoot better when his left wrist is healed. If Winslow starts at power forward, it will also allow Josh Richardson to start at small forward.