The Miami Heat headed into a week plus road stretch on the West Coast with a 15-20 record. The Team Without LeBron has yet to square their identity entirely, but have been really hamstrung by injuries. As soon as Danny Granger came back, Josh McRoberts went down indefinietly.
But there’s a small spark coming off the bench in the three youngsters of Shabazz Napier, James Ennis and Hasan Whiteside. They’ll get tested hard on the long road west.
Miami 83 at Portland Trail Blazers 99
The surging Trail Blazers are not a great way to start a road trip with LaMarcus Aldridge took it to the inside for 24 points while the backcourt combined for 34 points and 8 assists. The Heat were under the rumor mill all day before the game with the report that the Memphis Grizzlies were trying to trade for Luol Deng to bolster their three-point shooting, and Deng shot 3 for 11 from the field, 1 for 3 from three point and ended with 7 points. Bosh and Wade were in typical form, scoring 18 and 23 respectively and Hassan Whiteside came off the bench for 10 points. It’s a hard bet for anyone to stop the Blazers really, but the Heat had nothing to match for them and it appears the trade rumors got into Deng’s head for the night.
Miami 104 at Los Angeles Clippers 90
The Hassan Whiteside Show slipped right into Hollywood mode as Whiteside had 23 points, 16 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals to rip open the very shaky Clippers defense. Luol Deng was able to shake off the trade rumor blues and scored 10 points with 3 rebounds and 4 assits. But the interior belonged to Chris Bosh with 34 points and Dwyane Wade notched a double-double with 17 points and 10 assists.
The Heat limited DeAndre Jordan to 4 points and 6 rebounds but let Blake Griffin nab 26 points and Chris Paul got his 23 points. Defensively the Clippers have been really bad this season, 19th defense with 100 ppg allowed and only scoring 106.4 ppg (for the 5th highest offensive rating). Blake and CP3 will almost always get theirs and teams like the Heat will allow them as long as they can stop the rotating shooting guard and Jordan in the paint. Matt Barnes isn’t going to go off on offense and he’s not been great this year defensively.
Miami 78 at Los Angeles Lakers 75
Yikes. Chris Bosh had his season low 8 points, Dwyane Wade has a season low 4 points, but the game was saved by Mario Chalmers and Chris Anderson? Not a recipe you want to cook with every night, but bad games happen. Wade only played 14 minutes after feeling his hamstring get tight and did not want to chance it.
Danny Granger and Luol Deng continued their Dissapointment Tour, Granger played 24 minutes and only attempted three shots and missed all of them to finish with 2 points. Deng went a long 38 minutes and attempted 13 shots to get 8 points.
Hassan Whiteside continues to make the case that he would be starting on any other team with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks. I keep trying to play with lineups on the Heat to make it possible for Whiteside to be on the starting squad, but their bench is either entirely too old or entirely too young to pick up the scoring slack. If Josh McRoberts was still around, maybe you could package McBob with Deng for some bench offense, but they’re really stuck right now.
Miami 89 at Golden State Warriors 104
*sees Shabazz Napier and Hasan Whiteside get starts. Rubs hands together like Birdman*
It’s good to see Spolestra sensing a change in his lineups, but just as I suspected, the bench was abysmal. 17 points total from the Heat bench with the highest scorer being Shawne Williams with 5.
The pairing of Napier and Mario Chalmers is a little terrifying, they both dribble a lot and have really similar skills, but they combined for 11 assists, 4 steals and 5 turnovers. Napier ended with 10 points, Chalmers with 7. But how did that pairing help out the rest of the floor?
Luol Deng ended with 19 points & 7 rebounds, Chris Bosh had 26 points & 7 rebounds and Whiteside paired 10 points with 12 rebounds. Deng’s 19 was the highest scoring game he’s had all month and the highest in 9 games.
Defensively, the Deng-Bosh-Whiteside front court was crazy effective. They bothered Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut for a combined 12 points. They kept the hot Green to 28.5% shooting and Barnes to 16%.
It was a promising step, but until McRoberts is back, how much is that bench going to sink into the ocean?
Miami 95 at Sacramento Kings 83
Whiteside hoped to show up his former team, but was limited due to fouls, but that didn’t stop the Bosh-Deng show from going in on the declining Kings. 30 from Bosh and 25 from Deng and Shabazz Napier subbed in from Dwyane Wade with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Granger still stunk it up, the Bench still struggled to score with 17 points total and two players getting a goose egg.
Pairing Chalmers with Napier appears to have some potential, but Chalmers off the ball moves are less desired than someone like Wade. Will Spolestra pair up Napier and Wade and just hope the bench doesn’t give the game away? Maybe Chalmers on the bench can help direct an offense that is kind of listless.
In the End, the Heat finished their trip 3-2, which is solid, the wins against the Clippers and Lakers seemed expected, but losing against the future Western Conference leaders in the Warriors and Blazers was also expected.
The wing position on the team is a weakness that is easily exposed and the bench is just awful.