No Kawhi Leonard, no problem for the San Antonio Spurs. No Hassan Whiteside, big problem for the Miami Heat. Pitting Bam Adebayo and James Johnson against veterans LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol proved too big of a handicap to overcome in the 117-100 loss in AA Arena.
The Heat kept close with the Spurs until the 4:37 mark of the third period, when Miami pulled to within a single point, 61-60, after a Goran Dragic 3-pointer. From then on the San Antonio widened the gap to a comfortable 20-point margin, 93-73, early in the fourth quarter. The teams traded baskets, with Miami getting as close as an 11-point deficit, but couldn’t get the needed stops to pull the game out for a win.
The Spurs were lead by LaMarcus with 31 points in 38 minutes and Rudy Gay's 22 points in 26 minutes. The two bright spots were Goran Dragic with 20 points, and Tyler Johnson with 23, and a crowd-awakening dunk.
James Johnson scored 21 points, but had a team high, or should I say low, +/- of -20 while he was the floor. Josh Richardson had a forgettable evening fouling out of the game with 6 personal fouls and scoring only one field goal in his 33 minutes on the court.
Just as it takes a team effort to win a game, teams also lose games. A particularly glaring problem in the opening four games of the season is lack of communication on defense. In the third quarter, when the game got away from the Heat, the Spurs managed to practically get any shot they wanted with little resistance.
Rather than find individual scapegoats in a 17 point loss, the group as an entity lacked the energy to keep close enough to their man to prevent the Spurs from getting open for good looks at the basket. Miami scored 109, 112, 104, 100 points in their first four games and managed to win only two of them.
Next up are the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves. So far this season Miami has a problem stopping double-digit runs, either almost losing with a 21 point lead or letting a 1 point deficit balloon to 20 point one within minutes. These ten-minute spans of low intensity can ruin an entire 48 minute game. Somehow the Heat has to stayed motivated, without any dry spells, every minute of a game.