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Heat losses to Denver, Lakers reveal offensive struggles

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Miami needs more than Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic.

Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Miami Heat ended a tough West Coast road trip 1-2, with losses to the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers and a win against the Phoenix Suns. That result isn’t bad — the Lakers and Denver are currently ranked as the top two teams in the West. But Miami scoring just 89 points against the Nuggets and mustering just 80 points Friday night point to deeper issues with the team’s offense.

Yes, Miami was on the second night of a back-to-back Friday. Justise Winslow and Derrick Jones Jr. sat out the games against Phoenix and the Lakers. But the Heat simply need more on offense than just Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic, who carried Miami in both the team’s win against the Suns and their loss to the Lakers.

For one, Kendrick Nunn hasn’t performed at the level he was at to enter the season. Nunn shot just 4-for-11 from the field against the Lakers and was a team-worst -24 on the night. He started the game against Phoenix well, scoring six points in the first five minutes of action — but didn’t maintain it. Nunn will need to continue to mix his game up with 3-point shooting and drives to the basket for floaters. Hopefully, he can be a player who can average around 15 points per game — what Miami was hoping Dion Waiters would provide.

In a situation such as this one, with Winslow and Butler missing games to start the season, Waiters would have gotten an opportunity. But the saga with Waiters got even stranger when Andy Slater said that Waiters overdosed on “gummies” and had a seizure on Miami’s plane from Phoenix to Los Angeles. No one else has confirmed Slater’s details, but the Miami Herald said that “an incident involving Waiters” occurred on the team plane.

It seems hard to envision Waiters playing for the Heat for a while — a few weeks ago, he criticized Erik Spoelstra and Tyler Herro on Instagram after he was suspended for Miami’s season opener. As a result, the Heat have to turn to Herro and Nunn, two rookies, to emerge as consistent offensive threats for the team.

Kelly Olynyk has had a bad year thus far. For the most part, Duncan Robinson and Meyers Leonard need to hit 3s to be productive offensively. James Johnson isn’t playing enough to provide a scoring punch, at least for now.

The good news is that Miami has an easy schedule coming up. The Heat will face the Pistons, Cavaliers (twice), Pelicans and Bulls in their next five games. All of those teams are below .500. Winslow’s return should also help ease the offensive load from Butler and Dragic — as well as allow Butler to avoid guarding the opposing team’s best player. But the Heat need to score beyond the 80s to win games in today’s NBA.