OAKLAND, Calif. — Erik Spoelstra admits its a result-based league, but he also knows the Heat are a process-oriented organization.
That’s why the Heat, which aren’t in to racking up moral victories, can consider Tuesday’s 107-95 loss to the 33-6 Warriors as a step in the right direction. Just take a look at what Golden State had to say about the 11-29 Heat after the game.
“Erik (Spoelstra) is doing an amazing job with that group considering the loss of (Dwyane) Wade and the injuries. We knew that coming in just watching tape,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “They are a good team and better than their record shows. I know you are going to say that’s coach speak or whatever, but they are a competitive team and a team that plays hard and they are going to make you work. They don’t have enough firepower right now to win consistently, but they made us work for everything.”
And Warriors guard Stephen Curry shared similar thoughts.
“Their record isn’t great, but coach talked about it before the game, this is a team that no matter what the score is, they play hard for 48 minutes,” Curry said.
That’s one way to describe the team with the second-worst record in the NBA. The floundering Heat are 1-4 on their current six-game road trip, and are 2-12 over their past 14 games.
But even five games in to a tough road trip, Spoelstra is still optimistic about his team’s direction. So optimistic that he took a second to look past Tuesday’s loss to Golden State to appreciate the bigger picture.
The Heat led the Warriors at halftime and were within three points with 6:36 remaining in the game. Miami also held Golden State to a 105.2 offensive rating — points per 100 possessions, which is impressive considering the Warriors lead the NBA with an offensive rating of 113.2.
And Whiteside was dominant in Tuesday’s loss with 28 points and 20 rebounds. It marked Whiteside’s third game of the season with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds, and the fifth 20-20 game of his NBA career.
“We’re not looking for moral victories,” Spoelstra said. “We’re looking to get better and improve every single day. The tough thing on this road trip is you have to step back and really evaluate, which I’m not able to do right now. I’m still emotional about the game. But you can see our basketball team is getting better.”
With the Heat’s record what it is 40 games into the season, players are starting to take their coach’s approach as they enter the final of game of their longest road trip of the season. Miami takes on the Bucks in Milwaukee on Friday.
“It’s definitely getting better,” Tyler Johnson said. “I think the tough part is we actually enjoy each other’s camaraderie. We actually enjoy working with each other. It’s not like guys are coming in and not wanting to work. Guys are genuinely trying to get better. In this league it’s hard to get wins and on top of that, all the turnover we’ve had and had to go through. We’ve gone through enough halfway through the season where most teams go through it the whole year. That’s not an excuse. But we’re definitely having to figure things out on the fly and plug different pieces in here and there. But I think our core values are definitely starting to be implemented into what we’re playing.”
Miami threw out its 17th different starting lineup of the season in Tuesday’s game against the Warriors. Injuries have made it hard for the Heat to use a consistent starting lineup, as 14 Heat players (including Chris Bosh) have already combined to miss 164 games due to injuries over the first 38 games of the season.
With 42 games left in the season, the Heat insist there is still a lot that can be accomplished. And that’s even with 20-year-old Justise Winslow — Miami’s first-round pick in 2015 — out for the rest of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery last Thursday.
The rest of the Heat’s young core — Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and Hassan Whiteside — will use the remainder of the season as a learning tool.
“I think we can just mature a lot and grow a lot,” Richardson said. “You know we’re going to be in a lot of close games for the rest of the year. We play a lot of people really close so they can mature in that aspect. So when we get in that situation next year, we know that we’ve already been there. We’ve been in like 25 clutch games this year already. That’s a good aspect to grow. And just being leaders. Our young guys, I think we’ve done a good job of just trying to lead these guys who weren’t here before and teach guys about the program.”