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Dragic, Whiteside can’t lift Heat past Celtics

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The Heat’s dismal first half doomed them from coming back against the Boston Celtics Monday night.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In the Miami Heat’s game against the Boston Celtics Monday night, Goran Dragic had 27 points and 16 assists. Hassan Whiteside added 23 points and 16 rebounds. And the Heat scored 42 points in the third quarter.

These facts may indicate a comfortable Heat win. But those statistics obscure a wider issue with this Heat team — a team that managed to score just 31 points in the first half against the Celtics, a team that started the fourth quarter 1-for-5 after cutting a 19-point deficit to 10. And now, this team has fallen to 5-12 in their first season of the post-Dwyane Wade era.

Miami had its moments in the third quarter. Dragic and Whiteside connected on three alley-oops in the period. Josh Richardson made three 3-pointers in the third quarter. (The Heat, though, started 0-for-14 from beyond the arc and didn’t convert a 3 until after halftime.) But a team that builds a big lead can sustain rallies from the opposing team with a few momentum-breaking shots. That’s exactly what happened Monday night.

Throughout this entire season, the Heat’s fleeting flashes of solid play have not overcome their extended periods of offensive droughts and defensive breakdowns. Injuries have played a role, but the Heat look like a young team that will continue to struggle as they try to build some semblance of offensive firepower.

Dragic returned from a two-game injury absence, and Heat fans also saw their first glimpse of Wayne Ellington. The swingman played 26 minutes and had a nice moment when he made a turnaround jumper to close the third quarter with 0.3 seconds left. For a team that shot 6-for-30 on 3-pointers tonight, we may see more of Ellington in the future. But he’s going to need to shoot better than 1-for-5 from downtown, as he did tonight.

The Heat will need more than just Dragic and Whiteside offering the one-two punch (and even they didn’t start playing well until the third quarter). Waiters and Tyler Johnson were sorely missed Monday night — they could have offered some offensive creation when the Heat desperately needed some in the second quarter, when Miami could only muster 12 points.

Aside from Richardson and his three third-quarter 3-pointers, Miami had no one else to turn to. Luke Babbitt returned to the starting lineup, but scored just four points. Derrick Williams shot just 3-of-9 from the field, and James Johnson shot just 2-for-9. And although Justise Winslow will be a welcome addition when he finally comes back after missing his eighth consecutive game, no one is looking to him to offer consistent output offensively.

So where will it come? That’s what Erik Spoelstra and his coaching staff have to decide as they try to turn this season around.

After falling to 2-7 at home, the Heat will travel to the Mile High City to face the Denver Nuggets Wednesday at 9 p.m.