MIAMI – Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had one request Sunday.
“Want to just talk about the first half?” he asked. “I’d prefer that.”
The Heat were feeling pretty good about themselves at the half, trailing the Golden State Warriors by two points, but quicker than Stephen Curry gets off a 3-pointer, the game was out of hand.
Golden State crushed the Heat, 123-95, at AmericanAirlines Arena, turning a feel good first half into a nightmarish third quarter in which they outscored the Heat 37-17.
The Heat hung with the defending champs for one half, trailing just 62-60 on the strength of nine 3-pointers and just four turnovers. But the third quarter was a different story. The Warriors outscored the Heat, 18-3, in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the second half, stretching the lead to 80-63. The Warriors made nine of their first 10 shots of the half while the Heat were going 1-of-5 with three turnovers.
The Warriors shot 62.4 percent in the second half while the Heat were at 32.4.
“As much as any team in the league, when they smell blood, they go for it,” Spoelstra said. “Right then. Right then and right there. So many of their guys just come alive when they start to get it rolling. And each one of them becomes ignitable. We have a couple of guys that are ignitable. They have a roster full of guys that really start foaming at the mouth when the game starts to turn like that.”
The Heat (11-12) continue their inconsistent play. Miami has lost 3-of-4, sandwiching two losses by a combined 57 points around a home win over the Hornets. The 123 points is the most points the Heat have allowed this season in regulation.
Four Heat players scored in double figures, led by Goran Dragic’s 20 points.
Curry topped the Warriors with 30 points while Kevin Durant added 24.
“We’re going to dig in and find solutions and find a way collectively that we can get to more consistency,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the bottom line. We’ve been saying it enough, but we’ll find a way to get that done.”
Here our five takeaways.
Warriors solve Heat’s defense: Okay, it’s not like the Heat found the secret potion to stopping Golden State, but their defensive effort the last time these teams met was impressive. Miami held the Warriors to their season low shooting percentage, .368, during Golden State’s 97-80 victory in Oakland last month. Nobody expected a repeat, not against the top scoring and shooting team in the league. Golden State was a completely different team Sunday, making 56 percent of its shots, including 71.4 percent (15-of-21) in the third quarter. This comes two games after the Knicks shot an opponents’ best 60.3 percent against Miami.
“Golden State just took it to a different level,” Spoelstra said. “What I wanted to see was a competitive response, where it doesn’t go to 30, where it’s still in striking distance and maybe it has to get a little bit slower, a little more disciplined, a little bit more ugly within the rules. Just to keep it within striking distance. But once we started to break down from a competitive disposition standpoint, discipline standpoint, then it was a snowball rolling down the hill and they did what they do.”
Curry early, Durant late: The Warriors never know who is going to carry the offensive load from night-to-night. Sometimes it’s a team effort, others it can be Curry or Durant or Klay Thompson. On Sunday, Curry was hot early with 20 first half points. He added 10 more in the third quarter. Durant had 13 points in the third quarter to go along with his 11 in the first half. Neither played in the fourth quarter.
“They have a lot of players who can make plays,” Dragic said. “That’s why they’re the world champions. They played well. The first half we competed with them, the second half we didn’t. You see the results.”
Waiters struggles: Dion Waiters emerged as the toast of the town the last time these two teams met in South Florida. Waiters’ 3-pointer with less than a second remaining gave the Heat a 105-102 victory, a game the Heat used as a springboard for a strong second half run. The Warriors didn’t have to worry about Waiters as much this time as the inconsistent guard missed nine of his 10 shots and finished with four points. Waiters has had games of 0-of-10, 2-of-10, 3-of-10 and 1-of-10 Sunday in his last eight games.
“I like the work that he’s been putting in,” Spoelstra said. “Now, in the last couple of weeks, it hasn’t necessarily been the results that we’ve wanted and I know he wants better results, as well. But I like the work that he’s been putting in. He’s been diligent about trying to take more responsibility, make better plays for the team.”
Dragic breaks slump: Dragic’s shooting slump started the day after he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Since, he scored 20 points in three games while shooting 7-of-29 and missing all eight of his 3-point attempts. Dragic equaled that total Sunday, getting off to quick start against the Warriors, making his first shot, a three, and putting up nine points in seven first quarter minutes. Included was his first 4-point play of the season as he made the three while being fouled by Klay Thompson. He finished 7-of-10 from the floor.
“I don’t care about that,” Dragic said. “Even if the shot goes in we still lost the game. The most important thing is winning. Of course, it’s still nice to see the shot goes in. It doesn’t mean much when you lose by 30, 40.”
On the road again: The Heat conclude a stretch of 14-of-19 games on the road this week with a three-game trip that starts Wednesday in San Antonio, take them to Mexico City for three days to face the Nets and ends in in Memphis. And while Miami will be without center Hassan Whiteside, reports are Kawhi Leonard is close to returning for the Spurs and could return Wednesday. Otherwise, the Nets’ D’Angelo Russell (knee) and Grizzlies’ Mike Conley (Achilles) remain sidelined. The Heat then return home Dec. 13 to start a stretch of 9-of-13 games at home.
“The next game is going to be important for us,” Dragic said. “We’re playing against a good team away from home in San Antonio, so that’s crucial.”