Goran Dragic: Miami Heat ‘not talented enough’ to overcome slow starts

Goran Dragic #7 of the Miami Heat handles the ball during a game against the LA Clippers on December 16, 2016 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

Goran Dragic #7 of the Miami Heat handles the ball during a game against the LA Clippers on December 16, 2016 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

MIAMI – With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, there wasn’t a deficit that scared the Heat.

Down by as much as 27 points against the Cavaliers in Cleveland on March 20, 2013 – no problem. The Heat just outscored the Cavaliers 64-40 in the second half behind 19 second-half points from James to complete the comeback win in the middle of Miami’s historic 27-game winning streak.

Trailing by 14 points against the Thunder after the first quarter of Game 4 in the 2012 NBA Finals – no problem. The Heat went on to outscore the Thunder 85-65 over the final three quarters to rally for the win on their way to the NBA title.

But with James in Cleveland, Wade in Chicago and Bosh unavailable to play due to blood clot issues, those days are long gone.

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With the current Heat roster full of young faces and players who have bounced around the NBA, the room for error is very small this season. One bad quarter or one bad half and it usually results in a loss for Miami.

“We can’t come and say ‘OK, first two quarters we’re going to feel out the game, we’re not going to battle,’” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said. “We can’t win like that. We’re not talented enough to win like that.”

Those comments from Dragic came minutes after Miami’s 105-95 loss to Boston on Sunday. The Celtics built a 37-19 lead in the first quarter and the Heat could never dig themselves out of that deep hole.

And it wasn’t because of a lack of effort.

Miami went on to outscore Boston 76-68 over the final three quarters, but the game was decided in the first quarter. After the Celtics shot 65.2 percent in the first quarter, the Heat limited them to 38.8 percent shooting for the rest of the game.

“We put ourselves in such a big hole and then all of a sudden we start understanding now we got to start playing and then we get it close,” Heat guard Tyler Johnson said. “But we’ve used so much energy trying to get it back that if they go on just a little run toward the end of the game, it’s almost impossible to come back from.”

This was true in Friday’s 102-98 loss to the Clippers, too. The Heat entered halftime trailing 60-46 before outscoring Los Angeles 52-42 in the second half.

But the Clippers’ 14-point cushion was too big for the Heat to come back from. Most of Miami’s poor play in that game came in the second quarter, when Los Angeles won the period 29-19 with the help of 24 percent shooting from the Heat.

“We need to come out and be ready when they tip the ball,” Dragic said. “It’s two games in a row we play badly, really bad in the first half. Then it’s really hard to come back. You need to have a perfect game, everything needs to go your way. The only good thing was we fought to the end.”

Those slow starts have been deadly for the Heat (9-19). Miami has been outscored by a combined 101 points in the first half this season (ranked 27th in first-half scoring margin), which has led to many failed comeback attempts.

The Heat have been a much better team later in the game, as they have actually outscored teams by a combined three points in the second half this season (ranked 16th in second-half scoring margin).

“When we combine those two halves and play at least 42, 48 minutes like that,” Dragic said, “then it’s going to be much easier to win.”

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