MIAMI – Dion Waiters likes to say he’d rather go 0-for-30 than 0-for-10. The reasoning, if he stops shooting after missing 10 shots it means he’s lost his confidence.
With six minutes remaining in the Heat’s beatdown by the Pacers, Waiters had missed all 10 of his shots.
Coach Erik Spoelstra wasn’t about to allow Waiters hoist up 20 more shots, removing him with about six minutes remaining in a game that was over long before that.
There are losses and there are bad losses.
This was a bad loss for the Heat.
Coming off an uplifting victory at Washington on Friday, their first over a team with a winning record, the Heat had a golden opportunity to get back to .500 with a home game against the Indiana Pacers, a .500 team coming in that, honestly, should not be a .500 team let alone 9-8 as they are now.
But then this. Indiana 120, Miami 95.
And a new low to this uneven season.
The Heat (7-9) had a chance to make an early season statement, saying something like, “That team that stumbled through the first month of the season, that’s not us. This is us. This is how we should play and will play.”
Instead, they left their chapped coach at a loss for words.
“Look, I don’t have an answer to our unreliability right now,” Erik Spoelstra said before taking a question. “We had our most inspiring effort – not perfect game – but inspiring effort in Washington, and then this is the other side of us. I don’t have an answer for it. One way or another, we’re going to get down to the bottom of it.
“I don’t have answers right now for why we give up 120 points and have an uninspiring play. I don’t.”
And Spoelstra was being kind. This is not the 11-30 Heat we saw last season. That was a raw, getting-to-know-you team that was wracked by injuries and just overwhelmed by better teams.
But very rarely was their effort questioned.
This is worse. Spoelstra never appeared as exasperated, as frustrated last season – even through 11-30 – as he did after watching the Pacers shoot 60 percent from the field, outrebound Miami by seven and the Heat commit 17 turnovers.
With Matthew McConaughey sitting courtside, it’s only appropriate the Heat looked Dazed and Confused.
And it wasn’t just Waiters going scoreless for the first time in 60 games with the Heat.
It was Hassan Whiteside sulking on the offensive end after missing a shot and the Pacers scoring after getting two chances on their end before Whiteside decided to join the action.
It was Goran Dragic with four turnovers and Kelly Olynyk with one field goal and two rebounds in 14 minutes.
And most of all it was Indiana taking uncontested shots, from layups to mid-range jumpers, the entire night.
How bad was it? This game got so out of hand that the highlight for the uneasy crowd during the second half was 15-year veteran Udonis Haslem entering for the final 3:26, marking his first action of the season. … and that includes the preseason.
And Dragic was just as perplexed as his coach.
“How we play in Washington and then the next game, nobody recognizes us,” Dragic said. “That’s the thing we need to figure out. Tonight was a terrible game from the first minutes to the last we couldn’t (play) defense. (But) it was just everything, defense and offense there was not clicking. Everybody could see that.”
Dragic went so far to say the issue is “hustle,” not style or system. “You had the same system last year,” he said.
And count Wayne Ellington among the frustrated.
“There is no answer,” Ellington said. “But we understand that it’s a problem. The consistency, our effort and energy, that’s something we can control. We can’t control if shots are going to fall every night. But we can control if we come in here with the same effort every night and energy.”
The Heat were 19 games under .500 halfway through a year ago and made a remarkable run that had them on the brink of the playoffs.
Of course, that is not the norm. And it would be much too much to ask for a team to turn its season around so drastically in consecutive years (want proof? Check out the Miami Dolphins). Although 80 percent of this season remains, Miami must figure out why it can hold the Wizards to 88 points on 41 percent shooting and two nights later allow the Pacers to score 120 on 60 percent shooting.
If they don’t, it won’t be long before they are trying to figure out once again how to dig out from a deep hole.
“I think sometimes we forget about that bad taste that we had in our mouth after last season,” Ellington said. “That’s something that we got to come here every night and remember.”