The Miami Heat’s recent road performances have raised several questions. And, after a 91-72 loss to the Celtics Sunday at TD Garden, neither coach Erik Spoelstra nor the Heat players could provide answers.
LeBron James called the result an “old-fashioned you know what.’’ Dwyane Wade filled in the blank.
“This game was unacceptable,’’ Spoelstra said. “We will fix it together, collectively. We’re not happy about it. We have not been able to come up with an answer on the road, particularly in the third quarter. We fell prey to that again. We will figure it out, somehow. Somehow, this group together, us in that locker room, we will figure it out.’’
The Heat were a step behind the Celtics most of the game - two or three steps behind Rajon Rondo. But the Heat got scorched in the third quarter as they failed to convert offensively, leading to an effective Celtics transition game.
Wade cut the Heat deficit to 51-46 with 10:52 left in the third quarter, then James scored in transition following a miss in the lane by Kevin Garnett. James would make three more field goals in the quarter, but no other Heat player would score from the field as the Celtics outscored them, 31-12.
James (23 points) and Wade (15) were resourceful enough to produce, despite having an off game. But Chris Bosh (2 for 11, 4 points) went from ineffective to irrelevant as the contest went on.
“Just a bad game,’’ Bosh said. “No concern at all. I mean, I’ve had bad games before - it’s not the first, it won’t be the last. I just had a good game [against Toronto]. You’ve got to take the good with the bad. I’ve just got to get it done. I probably don’t have good balance right now, so I just have to figure out what’s going on and fix it.’’
The last two years, the rejuvenated Heat have overtaken the Celtics in terms of star power while establishing themselves among the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.
But the Celtics turned those perceptions around, at least for a day.
“They played exceptionally well, as good as they’ve played against us in a long time,’’ Wade said. “Our mental focus wasn’t there the whole game. You know, we had a great comeback in the second quarter. But that was kind of pretty much it.’’
Heat players were saying all the right things about camaraderie after the game. But there were apparent conflicts during the game, such as a Wade-Mario Chalmers disagreement.
“If somebody says it creates friction for us they’ve never been in a team situation,’’ Bosh said. “We have to challenge each other, we have to push each other. It’s unacceptable - nobody likes to lose here, and it wasn’t fun. We were making mistakes - we have to address those things, nip it in the bud so it won’t become a big deal.
“That’s just a part of sports - get on each other, and you leave it there, you leave it on the court. We just have to make sure we stay together and do what’s right. And that’s holding each other accountable.’’
The Heat, who have three wins in 10 road games since March 2, seem to have developed a road complex.
“We understand we need to fix it,’’ James said. “We don’t have these type of lulls at home. We play well at home. We have our fans behind us. We go on the road, we’ve got to figure it out. We’ve played some good basketball on the road this year.
“It was just a good old-fashioned you know what. They beat us in all facets of the game. They kept us under all our averages and just completely dominated us. So, you’ve got to give them credit when credit is due.
“It’s definitely a string of issues on the road and we all know that. And we own it and we’ve got to get better. We’ve got to be more mentally tough, which we’ll figure it out. Do we have the answers right now? No. If that’s the case we would have figured it out in today’s game. The collective unit, we’ve got to just stick together through this and we’ve got to play better on the road. And we’ve got to figure it out before the playoffs.’’Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.