Heat hoping to get healthier, bounce back from winless trip

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra stars at referee Curtis Blair during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Monday, Nov.  21, 2022, in Minneapolis.  The Timberwolves won 105-101.

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra stars at referee Curtis Blair during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves won 105-101.

AP

A lot has changed for the Miami Heat in the last week.

After coming away with a statement win over the Phoenix Suns on Nov. 14 to get back to .500 following a 4-7 start to the season, the Heat hasn’t won since and has been plagued by injuries. Just seven days after that win over the Suns, the Heat dropped its fourth straight in a 105-101 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center on Monday night to fall to 7-11 and cap a winless four-game trip.

“Rough week,” center Bam Adebayo said in a quiet Heat locker room following the Heat’s loss in Minneapolis.

“It’s a terrible trip for us by going 0-4,” guard Kyle Lowry said.

“Losing sucks,” forward Max Strus said in a frustrated tone.

Those are just some of the ways to describe where things stand for the Heat now. But context is required to emphasize just how rough this stretch has been.

The last time the Heat went winless on a trip that lasted at least four games was when it went 0-4 on a four-game trip all the way back in March 2008. Miami closed the 2007-08 season with a 15-67 record .

“It’s tough, but we are where we are right now,” Lowry said, with the Heat returning to Miami in search of a win as it begins a two-game set at home against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday (7:30 pm, Bally Sports Sun). We’re four games under .500. Our record is our record. I feel like we’re a better team than our record. But our record is our record. We got to get back to just chopping away it a little bit at a time. We were.500. We had a chance to go over .500, but we are where we are right now.”

But this is not where the Heat expected to be after bringing back 13 players from last season’s roster that made it to the Eastern Conference finals and finished just one win short of reaching the NBA Finals.

Injuries have crippled the Heat this season, especially during the winless four-game trip. The Heat’s third-leading scorer, Adebayo, missed the first two games of the trip with a left knee contusion before returning to play the final two games of the trip, the Heat’s leading scorer Jimmy Butler returned to Miami and missed the final three games of The trip because of right knee soreness, the Heat’s second-leading scorer Tyler Herro remained in Miami for the entire trip because of a sprained left ankle and others also sat out.

That left the Heat with 11 players available for the first game of the trip in Wednesday’s loss to the Toronto Raptors. Then the Heat had just seven available players in the second game in Friday’s overtime loss to the Wizards. The Heat ended the trip with 10 available players in Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers and nine available players in Monday’s loss to the Timberwolves.

“At some point, hopefully we’ll be getting some guys back,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. Even if they’re not fully 100 percent, as long as they’re close enough. Maybe they can give us a little bit of reinforcement even if it’s just short minutes. That’s where we are right now. Just give us whatever you have, whatever you have just give us. If you’re used to playing 30 minutes, give us 15. If you’re used to playing 20 minutes, give us eight. So we can kind of manage things right now.”

The Heat was without seven players in Monday’s defeat. Along with the absences of Butler and Herro, Miami was missing Udonis Haslem (personal reasons), Victor Oladipo (left knee tendinosis), Duncan Robinson (sprined left ankle), Gabe Vincent (left knee effusion) and Omer Yurtseven (left ankle surgery) .

For Wednesday’s game against the Wizards, the Heat has already ruled out Butler, Oladipo, Robinson and Yurtseven. Max Strus (right shoulder impingement), Dewayne Dedmon (left foot plantar fasciitis), Herro and Vincent are listed as questionable, and Adebayo and Haywood Highsmith (right hip inflammation) are probable.

Strus, who played every game of the road trip, was initially listed as out for Wednesday, but the Heat changed his status to questionable on Tuesday evening.

“We got to stay positive somehow, some way,” Lowry said. Hopefully we get some bodies back this next week coming up. We have a good team in Washington the next two games. But we go home and get in our own beds and get into our own facilities and get ready to try to get a win. Get one, just get one.”

Spoelstra is not one to make excuses for his team and he made sure to point out this wasn’t an excuse for Monday’s loss, but acknowledged that “the guys’ legs were probably a little bit dead from this road trip” against the Timberwolves because The injury issues have led to players logging big minutes.

Lowry played 40.5 minutes per game during the trip, Caleb Martin played 40.1 minutes per game, Strus played 38.3 minutes per game, and even young unproven players like Highsmith (30.1 minutes per game), Nikola Jovic (27.3 minutes per game) and Jamal Cain (15.1 minutes per game) needed to be used for extended stretches because so many usual rotation players were injured.

“Guys are giving everything they have,” Spoelstra said. Everybody that’s available to play is literally giving everything they have. Even the guys that are playing are dealing with a lot of minor injuries right now. They’re just simply playing through stuff and doing it for the team. That’s admirable and inspiring to see guys do that.”

The Heat nearly got a win or two during the trip, which makes accepting the 0-4 result even tougher for players and coaches. Miami led at halftime in three of the four games before collapsing in the second half, including one loss that ended in overtime after leading by five points with a minute left in regulation.

In the end, the Heat enters Tuesday in 12th place in the Eastern Conference standings ahead of only the Orlando Magic, Charlotte Hornets and Detroit Pistons. With 64 regular-season games left to play, all Miami can do is move forward and hope its injury list gets shorter soon.

“We will get better from it, I promise Heat Nation that,” Spoelstra said. “It was this close on this road trip to being something special with all the guys out. We just weren’t able to do it. So we’ll rest up and get ready for Wednesday.”

This story was originally published November 22, 2022 10:41 AM.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.

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