Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 114-84 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers

CLEVELAND — The Heat had eight players available to face the defending NBA champions.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t pretty for Miami.

The Cavaliers (16-5) defeated the Heat 114-84 on Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena. Miami (7-16) has now lost four straight.

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love, left and Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside battle for the ball in the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 114-84. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love, left and Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside battle for the ball in the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 114-84. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

It doesn’t get much easier for the Heat, as they finish the trip with a road game against the Bulls on Saturday — the second night of a challenging back-to-back set with an undermanned roster.

Here are our five takeaways from Friday’s game …

1. Quiet night for Hassan Whiteside: Before Friday’s game, Erik Spoelstra said Hassan Whiteside needed to dominate in order for the Heat to get wins. “If he does not dominate at the rim, in the paint, we don’t have a chance to win,” Spoelstra said. “That’s what great players have to shoulder. That’s the responsibility of a great player.” Whiteside did not live up to that responsibility Friday night, as Cleveland limited him to eight points, 12 rebounds and zero blocks in 28 minutes. The 27-year-old was pulled from the game with 9:18 remaining in the third quarter and did not return until the start of the fourth quarter.

“Just to change the energy,” Spoelstra said of pulling Whiteside early in the third quarter. “Just wanted some more energy, some more life on the glass, defending pick-and-rolls. That was a coaching decision.”

Whiteside went on to play the first 7 minutes, 36 seconds of the fourth quarter before exiting the game with Cleveland holding a big lead.

“It happens in this league,” Spoelstra said of Whiteside’s uneven performance. “This league is for competitors only. It’s great competitive matchups every single night. We have a lot of guys out, so that’s a big responsibility for him. He’s starting to understand what that actually means.”

Whiteside said he hurt his left knee at the end of the second quarter Friday, but he played through it. He expects to play Saturday against the Bulls.

“I really don’t know what I’ve got to do man,” Whiteside said when asked if he has to be a dominant player for the Heat to win. “I really don’t know. I’m not going to lie to y’all. I’m coming out here playing as hard as I can, putting up what I can. I don’t know. I really don’t know.”

2. Eight is not enough: Erik Spoelstra likes to say, “We have enough.” On Friday, eight available players was not enough. The Cavaliers took advantage of the Heat’s injury-depleted roster to outscore Miami 57-38 in the second half. The Heat kept it close for most of the first half, but they just didn’t have enough to keep up with Cleveland as the game went on. The Cavaliers shot 55.4 percent and limited the Heat to a season-low 34.8 percent shooting.

3. Nobody to defend LeBron: With Justise Winslow, James Johnson and Dion Waiters in Miami to continue their recovery from injuries, and Josh Richardson still unable to play due to a sprained ankle, the Heat’s top four options to defend LeBron James were unavailable. Miami was forced to start the game with 6-foot-4 Rodney McGruder on James (6-8, 250). With James four inches taller and 45 pounds heavier than McGruder, the 12-time All-Star had a significant size advantage. Josh McRoberts and Derrick Williams were also asked to defend James. In the end, James finished with his typical stat line — 27 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

4. The Derrick Williams experience: It’s been an up-and-down season for Derrick Williams. It’s also been an up-and-down career for the former No. 2 overall pick. Williams started the season out of Erik Spoelstra’s rotation and has been inconsistent when he’s had a chance to play. But the 25-year-old gave the Heat quality minutes in Friday’s loss to the Cavaliers. Williams finished with a season-high 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting while also defending LeBron James for parts of the game. The question is, how will Williams follow up this performance? He’s finished with less than 10 points in 10 of the 14 games he’s appeared in this season.

5. Josh McRoberts, the shooter: The forward hasn’t been known as an aggressive offensive player in his time with the Heat. In fact, he’s averaged 3.7 shots per game as a member of the Heat. But with injuries keeping many of Miami’s top offensive options out, McRoberts is being asked to help carry the scoring load. He took 12 shots in Friday’s loss to the Cavaliers, scoring six points on 3-of-12 shooting. And it’s not isolated to just one game. McRoberts is averaging 8.4 shots over his past five games.

[Udonis Haslem excused from Friday’s game vs. Cavaliers for personal reasons]

[Josh Richardson rejoins Heat in Cleveland]

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