MIAMI — After two consecutive losses to losing teams, there was plenty of frustration in the Heat’s locker room Monday night.
After falling 116-107 to the Magic, Heat players were disappointed with the team’s defensive performance.
“You’ve got to help other guys,” Waiters said after the loss. “Five people have got to help everyone out there. Simple as that. It’s not about stopping guys individually. You need everybody on a string.”
Goran Dragic was brutally honest when discussing Miami’s defensive effort.
“We can’t win games only on offense. We’re not talented enough,” Dragic said. “We need to grind, we need to play defense and we shouldn’t shy away from those things that we’re best at.”
But when center Hassan Whiteside was asked about the Heat’s defense after Monday’s loss, he made it clear that he took care of his job in defending Magic center Nikola Vucevic.
“That was my job. Vucevic shot 4-for-14 so I call that good defense,” Whiteside said.
Vucevic did finish with just 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting, but it was the Heat’s defense around the rim that was the issue. With Whiteside as Miami’s primary rim protector, the Magic accumulated 52 paint points and shot 69.2 percent at the rim.
When asked why he was pulled from the game earlier than usual Monday with 9:15 remaining in the first quarter, Whiteside didn’t seem to understand the message coach Erik Spoelstra was trying to send.
“[Spoelstra] just took me out because the guy got a rebound,” Whiteside said Monday night. “It went over my head. It happens, man. I lead the league in rebounds the last time I checked. So I know how to rebound. It just went over my head. We talked about it and I came back in and I led both teams in rebounds.”
One day later, Spoelstra downplayed all of the comments. But he did admit that he would rather his players take a day to clear their minds before voicing their frustration just minutes after a disappointing loss.
“That’s part of being in a competitive business,” Spoelstra said after Tuesday’s practice. “That’s why I even reminded them during the course of this year — because it is a young team — that there’s going to be a lot of emotion and I find it best to usually just get out of the arena, have a nice dinner, express your frustration at home, let it get out of your system and come in the next day with a clear mind to work and try to find solutions. I really commend this group for that. If they weren’t getting frustrated then you have a problem and you have a lifeless group. I find that all born out of the right place.”
Whiteside blamed the team’s frustration on the Heat’s recent 13-game winning streak. It’s been a while since Miami faced adversity during a stretch of losses.
“When a team hasn’t lost in almost a month, guys forget what it feels like to lose a game,” Whiteside said Tuesday. “I think that pain came back and it was a thing we forgot about for a while. So it’s OK, though. It’s not the end of the world. We lost two games and we just got to come out here and get the next one.”