Playing on the second day of a back-to-back set, the Miami Heat gave Shabazz Napier and James Ennis the day off but it looks the entire team could have used the rest as they limped to a 101-69 blowout loss to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday at the Cox Pavilion.
The defeat is their second straight after winning their first six games in both the Orlando and Las Vegas tournaments. The game was their fourth in five days in both cities, with a strong possibility they play again on Wednesday.
"I think that when you have a couple of guys out, your rotation is limited," said coach Dan Craig. "So I thought we were trying to grind out that game and hang around and have a shot at the end. I think with a limited rotation we had a little fatigue in the fourth and we let it get away. I think moving forward, hopefully we have a couple more people available next game but that's no guarantee."
Showing little of the scrappy, active defense and open court offense they displayed in previous games, the Heat could only watch as the Celtics had their way with them on both ends of the floor as they steadily increased their lead.
Justise Winslow started for the Heat but looked shaky offensively with five points, three rebounds, three turnovers and three personal fouls in almost 11 minutes of action. Displaying little of the attacking mentality he showed in Orlando, Winslow instead settled for jump shots and was forced into giving up the ball under heavy pressure from Boston's perimeter defense. Whether it's soreness or simply exhaustion from the Heat's heavy schedule, Winslow is clearly limited but is still showing growth on both ends of the court.
He wasn't the only Heat player struggling to keep up with the Celtics' aggressive mentality on both ends of the floor. However, Greg Whittington was the team's lone bright spot with 18 points on 6-11 shooting, 3-5 from beyond the arc, along with eight rebounds. He continues to show an intriguing range of skills combined with his length.
"He's been great for us," said Craig. "He's an athletic player. He can mix in rolling and flaring. He's been great getting us into second situations and defensively, you can do a lot with him. You can switch him on the perimeters, he can rebound and protect the rim for you, and he can bust out and create breaks. So he adds a nice dimension."
Second round draft pick Josh Richardson took over primary ball-handling responsibilities with Napier on the bench but couldn't revive the Heat's quick pace from previous Summer League games.
As Winslow looked on from the bench after a minor ankle sprain ended his night, the Heat had little left in the tank to mount any sort of meaningful comeback. To make matters worse, the Celtics shot well from beyond the arc to increase their lead while the Heat went through scoring droughts — notably to begin the final quarter that doubled their deficit in the first three minutes.
With the Celtics up by more than 20 points in the fourth quarter, the Heat's lineup of reserve players including Travis Trice and Juwan Howard Jr closed out the game. Miami was outscored 36-14 in the fourth quarter.