Without Goran Dragic in the starting lineup, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra installed Josh Richardson in his place and mixed up his rotation but the team once again suffered too many lengthy offensive lapses en route to a 102-91 loss to the visiting Utah Jazz. The team has fallen to 2-6, their worst start since the 2007-08 season, and they have lost four of their first five home games.
Miami hung around in the first half but there wasn’t nearly enough firepower as Hassan Whiteside had another game in which he flashed flashes of dominance with 15 points and 14 rebounds but not with enough consistency, a virtual necessity if the Heat were going to be shorthanded and desperate for a victory against a tired but talented Jazz team.
Reinforcements were officially underway as Spoelstra gave Josh McRoberts his first minutes of the season and Derrick Williams was dusted off from the end of the bench. Though it’s clear that McRoberts, who finished with four points in 12 minutes, is going to need more than a few games to get back into rhythm, his size and versatility could be a huge boost to the Heat’s frontline soon enough. The same goes for Williams (11 points in 20 minutes) who enjoyed a solid game and was an instant catalyst with his energy right from the moment he entered the game. Starter Luke Babbitt has been inconsistent from the outside and was promptly replaced after five scoreless minutes in which he missed three 3-pointers and did not return to the game, which also meant Williams started the second half.
Things were still going well when Miami managed to tie it at 47-47 just before halftime on a Williams basket, but they went ice cold on offense and had no answer to Utah’s defense. They wouldn’t score again until halfway through the third quarter after 13 missed shots on McRoberts’ first score of the season to make it 62-49. By then the Jazz were comfortably ahead with a 15-0 run and soon built an almost insurmountable lead that would have required the Heat to play near perfect basketball with zero margin for error to get back into the game; too much to ask for with a squad in dire need of a go-to scorer like Gordon Hayward, who dominated the second half with his silky moves and finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Utah was without starter George Hill as well as reserve forward Boris Diaw and promptly lost Derrick Favors to soreness in the first quarter, all the while playing their fifth game in seven nights and concluding a five-game road trip, and yet it appeared as if they hardly broke a sweat keeping the Heat away from getting any good looks at the basket.
It doesn’t get much better for the Heat next, with a road game on Monday against the San Antonio Spurs and then a back-to-back the following night at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday. Folks, this could get ugly.