Heat forward LeBron James believes that a lack of continuity might be a factor contributing to the team's defensive struggles to start the season.
The Heat spent the bulk of Monday's practice searching for answers to their 4-3 start to the season that has them ranked 25th among the league's 30 teams in defensive efficiency. But the contrast between Miami's top-ranked offense and its defensive lapses is staggering.
James pointed to several issues that have led to the Heat's inconsistency.
“I don't know if it's because we've had guys out of the lineup, guys dealing with injuries, whatever it's been,” James said Monday. “Whatever it is, we need to fix it.”
James said Saturday's 111-110 loss to Boston on Jeff Green's buzzer-beating 3-pointer should serve as a wake-up call for the Heat. Had Green missed the desperation dagger from the corner, James said there's a chance Miami would have left the game with a false sense of security.
Instead, James and his teammates are dealing with the defensive miscues head on.
“Our offense is as good as it's ever been,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “So it's all defense with our team. It's defensively where we need to have more focus. First you have to understand what the problem is, then you have to own the problem, then you have to go out and fix the problem consistently. Not just for one game but for [several] games.”
Wade essentially said the Heat were embarrassed by their effort against the Celtics. Miami allowed Boston to shoot 52 percent from the field, 48 percent from 3-point range and overcome a four-point deficit in the final 3.6 seconds of the game. For the season, Miami is allowing opponents to shoot 47.3 percent from the field and score 100.9 points per game.
“Right now, we have something that this team needs, and it's something to get better at, something to pique our interest, as well,” Wade said. “Looking at the film, looking at the team that was on the court the other night, it's not the team we like to represent for our organization, for our fans, for ourselves.”
Heat forward Michael Beasley certainly doesn't like to be yelled at on most occasions. But those instances don't include the moment Saturday night when LeBron shouted at him to keep shooting.
Beasley said Monday he was initially hesitant to look for his shot when he entered the game against the Celtics, but that he gained confidence after his exchange with James on the court. Beasley obliged and put up seven shots in eight minutes to finish with 10 points in the loss to Boston.
“It would have felt better with a win, but it feels good to get minutes,” Beasley said. “L.J., he yelled at me. It was two times when Mario [Chalmers] drove baseline, and I had a wide-open shot. And I passed it to [LeBron]. He yelled at me. He said, 'Do what you do. You're not here to pass the ball.' Once he told me that, I just kind of focused my attention on the rim.”
While James (back soreness) declared Monday he would be in the lineup for Tuesday's game against Milwaukee, Heat forward Udonis Haslem didn't sound as certain. Haslem missed Saturday's game against Boston with back spasms, and has been dealing with soreness for about two weeks.
“It started a day or two before the Chicago game ... it just wasn't getting any better, and actually it was getting worse,” Haslem said Monday. “I just got to the point where I was unable to move and run and jump and do what I wanted to do. I needed to give it a little more attention and take care of it.”
Haslem said Monday was the best he's felt in weeks and that he hopes to play Tuesday. But ultimately, he doesn't want to come back too soon and have another setback.
“I'll continue to work with it, be patient and be smart,” Haslem said. “It's not something I want to deal with all season. It'll be up to the trainers. I don't want to take one step forward and two steps back.”
Did you know?
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, whose mother is from the Philippines, is contributing to the relief efforts as the nation recovers from last week's devastating typhoon. Spoelstra said Monday that the majority of his relatives there live in the capital of Manila and were directly impacted.
Quote of the day
“I'm active. Y'all going to stop trying to treat me like D-Wade around here.”
- LeBron James, joking to reporters when asked about his ailing back and status for Tuesday's game against Milwaukee.