The Heat seemed to have things figured out. After losing to the Pacers in embarrassing fashion they had some “dog-eat-dog” practices, snapped the Celtics’ win streak and started one of their own. They even managed to get their record above .500. For a moment everything was right in Heat Nation, but after dropping two straight games, the Heat are in trouble again.
The Eastern Conference is a lot more competitive this season. Philadelphia is playing well, Victor Oladipo and the Pacers look very strong, the Pistons have emerged and even the Knicks have found some sort of stability. This currently leaves Miami in the tenth seed with Magic right on their tail.
The Heat are a team that typically come alive in the new year. That’s when their elite conditioning comes into play and they rack up wins. Unfortunately, what worked last year isn’t working right now and that could all boil down to one thing regression and consistency among certain players.
Last season Tyler Johnson’s play was a welcome surprise. He brought energy into the second unit and displayed an amazing rapport with James Johnson. He also had a dependable three point shot, and shot decently from the field. This season that has all vanished. Johnson is shooting a career wort 34% from the field, and 29% from beyond the arc. He doesn’t look comfortable out there at all, and his chemistry with Johnson is noticeable absent (as made evident in Cleveland). He’s also really only playing 2 minutes less per game than last season so it’s hard to blame his play on the return of Winslow and Richardson.
Defensively, Josh Richardson has been elite. Offensively, Josh Richardson has been a major disappointment. Though he seems to have broken out of his disastrous shooting slump over the last two games that doesn’t change the fact that he is also shooting a career worst from the field, 36% as well as from three point land, 26%. Richardson is a huge help to the Heat when he’s rolling, but until Tuesday he wasn’t.
Dragic has been great for the Heat this season. He’s coming off a Eastern Conference Player of the Week honor, and has been a borderline All-Star. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have duds though, and unfortunately for Miami when he doesn’t score it’s a huge problem for the Heat. The Heat aren’t the Warriors. If Dragic or Waiters isn’t scoring they don’t have a three headed monster to lean back on. Instead they’ll rely on someone like Wayne Ellington to dig them out of a hole, or James Johnson and Hassan Whiteside (who is likely to miss more games) to spark some offense. It’s an unsustainable strategy and it’s one that’s resulting in losses.
It might not be fair, but on a team with no clear cut star, Miami needs Dragic to put up “Player of the Week” numbers nearly every night.
After last night’s loss to the Knicks, Dragic commented on Miami’s situation saying:
"The season goes by fast, and we don't want to be in the same situation as last year and you have to win every game until the end.”
"We have to figure out this thing quick and, you know, just bring that energy every night. If you play hard and you lose, you can check yourself in the mirror and say they were just better. But if you don't give everything you've got, you can't say that."
I agree with what he’s saying, but can’t help but wonder if “hard work” is a viable solution long term or if the Heat need to do something more.
Why do you think Miami is struggling and how do you think they can fix things?