MIAMI – The Miami Heat built an 11-point third-quarter lead at Detroit Sunday by going on a 13-2 run in which they made all but one of their seven shots.
Wednesday in Miami, the Heat started the second half by outscoring the Wizards 31-12 to take an 80-73 lead with just under 10 minutes to play.
Both games, though, ended in losses. The Pistons went on a 15-4 run Sunday to tie the score before pulling away in the fourth quarter. Against the Wizards, the Heat’s next 15 possessions resulted in nine missed shots, five turnovers and a Dion Waiters layup. By then the swing was 14 points and Washington was headed toward a 102-93 victory.
The two games that illustrate the inconsistencies and wild swings that have defined the early part of this Heat season.
“You have those minutes we play really well, we look amazing and then I feel like we just go away from those,” point guard Goran Dragic said. “Usually its one-on-one, we shoot a tough shot, basically we need to stick to our principles, get a trigger, try to move the ball.
“We have some good minutes and then two or three possessions it’s like we never played together. We’re working to fix that.”
The common thread to most of Miami’s struggles have been turnovers. The Heat and Utah are tied for fourth most giveaways with 16.3 per game. Miami was right at its average Wednesday with 17, which Washington converted into 26 points.
“The truth is turnovers are crippling our team right now,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Some of the ill-advised shots at certain points in the game. That’s why we’re so close. We don’t have necessarily cut our turnovers to 10 a game. That’s not realistic. But, a couple (less) per game, maybe get five shots more to our strengths rather than coughing up a poor, inefficient shot. That can dramatically change your offense.”
Those turnovers are contributing to an offensive rating that is 24th in league with 100.5 points per 100 possessions. And the struggles are happening at the most inopportune times. In the first half, the Heat are ninth in the league with a plus-26. But they are 24th in the second half with a minus-47, a stunning swing of 73 points.
The Heat (6-8) hope to take better care of the ball and limit that uneven play Friday when they complete this home-and-home with a 7 p.m. game in Washington (9-5).
“I just think sometimes when we make a run either we’re getting back into a game or we have a huge lead, our style of basketball kind of changes,” guard Tyler Johnson said. “We’re not being as aggressive. We’re not pushing the tempo like we were to push the lead up or to get back into the game. We have to keep our foot on the gas.”
Spoelstra mentioned the mental part of the game and taking more responsibility and Dragic noticed the Heat at times become too reckless.
Dragic said the Heat must try to eliminate those turnovers “that usually are coming from a pass from like a launching pad, when you’re inside the paint you kind of jump and you don’t have enough time to see the open guy, that’s why you get in trouble.”
Dion Waiters is the Heat’s biggest offender with 3.3 turnovers per game, up more than one per game from his 2.2 average last season. A year ago, the Heat were tied for the eighth fewest turnovers with 12.6 per game.
James Johnson is averaging 2.8 per game. It was Johnson and Waiters who had the most costly giveaways in Wednesday’s loss.
With the Wizards rallying in the fourth quarter, Johnson had one turnover and Waiters two in three consecutive possessions, which led to five Wizards points.
“I had a couple of late game turnovers that was me just not taking my time and trying to force the issue,” Waiters said. “But that is something we can control ourselves once we figure out everything that is going on out there and kind of slow down.
“We like to run. Sometimes you’ve got to be patient and allow the offense to work for itself. We get in trouble sometimes just trying to be aggressive.”
Spoelstra, though, continues to believe the Heat are close to turning it around.
“Sometimes after a game like (Wednesday’s) it can feel like we’re miles away from where we need to be,” he said. “But we’re a lot closer than it looks. Consistency is one of those things that sometimes can be a little bit vague, but the systematic approach to all the little things we think will help the big things for us and overall help our consistency.”