MIAMI – The Heat returned from a four-game road trip Saturday and got back to their losing ways at home.
The game was tight throughout the second half until Memphis guard Mike Conley scored 11 points in the final three minutes to help the Grizzlies pull out a 110-107 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“You got to tip your hat to that team,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Every time they’ve been in a close game this year they gut it out to get a win.”
Conley recorded nine straight Memphis points in a 95 second span, sandwiching two three pointers around a traditional three point play as the Grizzlies opened a seven point lead.
“Conley made every big play,” Spoelstra said. “It’s early now but if he’s not an all-star that would be a crime.”
The Heat cut the Memphis lead to 108-107 on a Dion Waiters layup but Conley then hit two free throws. Josh Richardson missed a forced three-point shot at the buzzer.
The Heat (5-11) jumped to a nine point lead but Marc Gasol had 19 of his 28 points in the first half to held Memphis (11-6) grab a two point lead at the half.
Too much Marc Gasol: The Heat had no answer for Grizzlies center Marc Gasol who finished with 28 points, 19 in the first half. Gasol kept the Grizzlies in the game early but starting taking over after Miami built a nine point lead, taking advantage of Hassan Whiteside getting into early foul trouble. He shot 11 of 16 from from the field, including 2-of-4 on threes. On Friday, Gasol and Conley were on a minutes restriction. Gasol started and played 26 minutes while Conley came off the bench to play 23 minutes in Miami’s 90-81 victory. The Heat did not have that luxury Saturday and it made a difference.
“He adjusted, he adapted,” Spoelstra said. “He did it from all over the court. He was doing it in the post early on, hitting jumpers, then spacing and playing off the ball, then his pick and rolls and making a lot of plays off of that.”
Home not so sweet: The Heat were feeling pretty good after pulling out a win in Memphis on Friday to salvage a split of their four game road trip, but then they returned home and the result was much the same as it’s have been most of the year. The loss dropped Miami’s record at AmericanAirlines Arena to 2-6, including an overtime win against Sacramento and a victory over the Bucks. The Heat now have a better record on the road (3-5) than they do at home.
“Very frustrating,” Waiters said. “The crowd came out. Energy. Just get it done. We’re home. You got to take care of business, especially at home.”
Whiteside in early foul trouble again: Whiteside was not happy when he was whistled for his second foul with eight minutes into the first quarter. Whiteside looked at official Tom Washington on his way off the court and said: “He’s flopping every time. How you don’t see that.” He was talking about Gasol. Whiteside has now been in early foul trouble in three of the last four games and fouled out Friday in Memphis. While Whiteside insists he can play through foul trouble, Spoelstra would rather not test that theory. Miami needs Whiteside on the court as much as possible and Whiteside needs to learn how not to foul rather than attempt to try to play while in foul trouble. Whiteside clearly gets easily frustrated and lately it has affected his game. He finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Heat turns to offense: After holding Memphis to 81 points on 35.4 percent shooting in a nine point win Friday, the rematch was more about offense. … and a lack of defense. The Grizzlies shot 50.7 percent, including 9-of-16 in the fourth quarter. Memphis’ starters were 31-of-56 and 9-of-18 on threes. The Heat, meanwhile, tried to match Memphis but could not. Miami shot 49.4 percent from the field, 11-of-31 (35.5) on threes.
“They adjusted,” Spoelstra said. “You have to give (Memphis coach David Fizdale) credit for that. They were spreading us out so there where situations where they were driving and getting behind three. They made some big threes down the stretch.”
Balanced scoring: With Goran Dragic (elbow) and Justise Winslow (wrist) still ailing, the Heat needed to make up for those points. Miami got balanced scoring with seven players in double figures, including the entire starting five, led by Waiters, who scored a season-high 28. Waiters had 11 in the fourth quarter, including Miami’s first five points. Josh Richardson and Whiteside added 15 while Derrick Williams had 13.
“He was aggressive but making the right plays and he was able to get to the basket against a team that protects the rim very well,” Spoelstra said about Waiters. “We get some good offensive performances.”
So long, friend: Spoelstra and Memphis coach David Fizdale got their reunion out of the way quick, and now will not face each other until the 2017-18 season. The two teams completed their season series in just two nights with the back-to-back that started in Memphis on Friday. (Miami plays every team in the Western Conference twice). The Heat now are done with San Antonio and Memphis for the season while still having yet to face five Eastern Conference teams this season. Fizdale is in his first season as the head coach in Memphis after spending eight seasons as an assistant under Spoelstra.
“You had two very competitive teams going after it, both teams wanting to get this game,” Spoelstra said. “From a personal standpoint I’m glad to get this behind us now.”