Five takeaways: Hassan Whiteside returns, but it was his teammates that carried Heat to win over Magic

Orlando Magic guard Mario Hezonja (8) defends against Miami Heat center Kelly Olynyk (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

MIAMI — The Magic entered on an eight-game losing streak and Heat center Hassan Whiteside returned from injury.

It was supposed to be easy. But it wasn’t.

The Heat (18-16) rallied from a 10-point third-quarter deficit to defeat the struggling and shorthanded Magic 107-89 on Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. Miami closed the game on a 60-32 run to make it look easier than it was against Orlando (11-24). Continue reading “Five takeaways: Hassan Whiteside returns, but it was his teammates that carried Heat to win over Magic”

Interesting facts and stats: Heat are one of the NBA’s best defensive teams

WASHINGTON — Here are five interesting information tidbits from the Heat’s (7-8) first 15 games of the season

* The Heat finished with a season-high 21 fast-break points in Friday’s win over the Wizards. Considering that Miami is scoring the ninth-fewest fast-break points in the league at 8.5 per game, 21 is a really good number. The Heat are now 3-1 this season when recording 15 or more fast-break points in a game.

“When you go in the open court, we’re a totally different team,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said of the Heat’s transition attack. “Most of those fast-break points came with good defense. The outlet passes came fast and when we can go on the runs we did, it helps to build a lead and helps with your confidence.”

* While the Heat’s up-and-down play to start the season has many still wondering just how good this team really is, there is one thing we know. Miami is a really good defensive team. Through the first 15 games, Miami has posted the seventh-best defensive rating in the NBA (allowing 102.4 points per 100 possessions). The Heat finished last season with the fifth-best defensive rating at 104.1. This helps make up for the fact that Miami is ranked 26th out of 30 teams in offensive efficiency this year.

“Just in terms of the competitiveness, that has to be a staple for this team,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We probably won’t be one of those teams that’s scoring 130, 140 when you look at the scores at night, but we can be a team that can make it very tough on you defensively. We can be physical.”

* Josh Richardson continues to be one of the top defenders in the league. Players are shooting 10.5 percent worse than their normal shooting percentage when defended by Richardson this season. Among forwards who have played in at least seven games and are defending at least seven shots per game this season, Richardson ranks second in that category. It’s a big reason why he’s second on the team in playing time, averaging 33.5 minutes of court action per game.

* Center Kelly Olynyk is averaging a career-low 18.7 minutes of playing time per game this season. Remember that Olynyk has an “unlikely bonus” of $1 million in his Heat contract if he plays more than 1,700 minutes this season, according to ESPN. This would lift Olynyk’s 2017-18 salary from $10.6 million to $11.6 million. Olynyk has played 280 minutes over the first 15 games of the season. That means he needs to play an average of 21.2 minutes the rest of the way, assuming he plays in each of the final 67 games, to earn his bonus.

* The Heat are taking a lot of 3-pointers. Miami ranks fifth in the league with 31.5 3-point shot attempts per game this season. But the shots have not been falling at the desired rate, as the Heat rank 21st in 3-point shooting percentage at 35.2 percent. Miami is on pace to shoot 2,580 3-pointers this season, which would set a new franchise record for a single season.

[What’s been the Heat’s message to James Johnson? Just be yourself]

[Erik Spoelstra says there’s no need for Heat to make roster move after Okaro White’s injury]

[Why haven’t Hassan Whiteside and Kelly Olynyk played together since the opener?]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

3 takeaways: Miami Heat look out of sync in preseason loss to Brooklyn Nets

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) drives toward the basket as Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin (7) defends during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The preseason is definitely not time to panic. But it is time to evaluate teams, lineups and players.

The Heat looked out of sync in a 107-88 loss to the Nets in Brooklyn on Thursday night. Miami dropped to 1-1 in the preseason, with four games left to play before opening the regular season on Oct. 18. Continue reading “3 takeaways: Miami Heat look out of sync in preseason loss to Brooklyn Nets”

One small detail in the 2017-18 schedule should help the Miami Heat. Here’s what it is …

MIAMI — The NBA schedule makers were kind to the Heat.

It could be hard to spot the favorable parts of an 82-game schedule. But look hard enough at Miami’s list of regular-season games and you’ll find one. Continue reading “One small detail in the 2017-18 schedule should help the Miami Heat. Here’s what it is …”