Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 111-99 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
1. With the Clippers playing on the road, on the second night of a back-to-back set and their third game in four nights, the Heat entered the matchup with an advantage it just couldn’t take advantage of.
Instead, Los Angeles looked like the fresher team down the stretch as it outscored Miami 57-45 over the final two quarters to turn a halftime tie into a 12-point win. The Heat struggled on both ends of the floor, making 43.6 percent of its shots and committing eight turnovers while the Clippers shot 56.4 percent in the second half.
Even when it came to effort plays, the Clippers had the edge. Los Angeles ended the night with a 21-9 edge in second-change points.
The good news for the Heat is games against the struggling Cavaliers and Knicks are up next. The bad news is eight of the Heat’s next 11 games come on the road.
Miami has now lost six of its last nine.
2. The Heat made a much-needed change to its starting lineup, and the results were positive. But it didn’t matter.
The starting five of Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson had struggled recently, with the group outscored by 36 points in 107 minutes over the Heat’s previous 10 games.
So coach Erik Spoelstra changed things up, replacing McGruder with Tyler Johnson.
It marked the second game Miami has used the starting lineup of Whiteside, James Johnson, McGruder, Winslow and Tyler Johnson, with the other time coming in a road win over the Magic on Dec. 23.
Spoelstra’s change yielded positive results after poor starts had turned into an issue recently. There was no slow start Wednesday, as the Heat outscored the Clippers 18-16 over the first 7:09 of the game before making its first substitution.
When the game was done, the Heat’s starting five outscored the Clippers 26-24 in 12 minutes together.
The switch in the starting lineup affected the Heat’s bench, too. McGruder went from starting to not playing at all, as he was a healthy scratch Wednesday for the first time this season.
The Heat tightened its rotation to nine against the Clippers after using 11 players in recent games. Along with McGruder, Kelly Olynyk, Wayne Ellington and Udonis Haslem were healthy scratches.
3. Whiteside’s struggles at the foul line continue to be a thing. The Heat’s starting center made two free throws Wednesday and ended a string of 14 consecutive misses from the charity stripe, but he was still just 2 of 5 from the foul line against the Clippers.
Despite working diligently at it after practice and sometimes even after games, Whiteside is last in the league in free-throw shooting among those who have attempted at least 50 free throws at 42 percent (66 of 157). It’s a big reason why the Heat entered Wednesday with the second-worst team free-throw percentage at 68.8 percent.
4. Dion Waiters’ playing time is getting more consistent, but his up-and-down play continues.
After totaling 39 points on 17-of-29 shooting (58.6 percent) in 48 minutes over the previous two games, Waiters wasn’t as sharp Wednesday with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting and three assists in a season-high 29 minutes.
Waiters, who missed the first 35 games of the season because of ankle surgery he underwent last January, is still being used in a bench role. But the Heat guard’s minutes are slowly increasing after he was fined last week for publicly venting about his lack of playing time.
While he’s averaging just 18.1 minutes of court time in nine games since he returned, he’s played an average of 25.7 minutes over the past three games.
5. The Heat didn’t have much of an answer for Clippers forward Tobias Harris, as he helped make it a bad defensive night for Miami. Harris finished with 31 points on 12-of-19 shooting and six assists on Wednesday, bouncing back from a 1-of-9 performance in Tuesday’s loss to the Mavericks.
Powered by Harris’ performance, the Clippers shot an efficient 52.9 percent against the Heat’s usually solid defense. Miami entered with league’s sixth-best defensive rating.
Source: “Los Angeles” – Google News