The steady climb remains an uphill battle for the struggling Miami Heat, this time with Monday night’s latest setback. loss to a Memphis Grizzlies team with four of its five starters.
Still not over .500 this season, he brought the Heat back to FTX Arena for Tuesday night’s game against the Detroit Pistons knowing that .500 wouldn’t happen until at least the end of the week.
“You get an opportunity to be .500 and go home and try to get over .500,” center Bam Adebayo said. “Now we’re still digging this hole.”
Even with wins over the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics, it turned into nothing more than a 2-2 outing after the lifeless effort at the end of eight days.
“Obviously, the last game on a long road trip is never easy,” guard Tyler Herro said as the Heat turned their attention to Tuesday’s start of a three-game stretch that includes a Thursday game against Los Angeles Clippers and a game on Saturday. against the San Antonio Spurs.
“As professionals, we have to come here and do our job no matter what.”
That didn’t happen in Memphis, even with the Heat as close to complete as they’ve been all season.
“Another hiccup,” forward Jimmy Butler said, “I don’t know what to call it.”
The last time the Heat faced similar adversity, after going 0-4, they came back to sweep back-to-back games at home against the Washington Wizards as part of a five-game winning streak that they took into Tuesday in the evening.
“No one gives us a dub,” Butler said, “no one feels sorry for us. So we have to do what we have to do and we are home. We need her.”
Because after this three-game homestand comes another grueling road trip, a weeklong stretch that includes games against the young and vibrant Indiana Pacers, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Houston Rockets and then, in Mexico City, a rematch against the Spurs .
Butler said the Heat need to move past seeding concerns entering Tuesday’s game in a three-way tie for ninth in the Eastern Conference.
“I don’t like to lose any games,” he said. “So they all feel the same way about me. Home, away, regardless of our opponent. I don’t like to lose any games.”
For all the Heat’s struggles this season, there have been few bad losses since they fell at home on opening night to the Chicago Bulls, who have since tumbled in the standings. Monday was a bad loss, with the Grizzlies sitting Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, among others, for the second night of back-to-back.
“I’d say this is probably the first game of the year where it looked like we were flat, in the mud for a lot of the game,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Memphis loss. “And even when we were able to get on our feet, we just weren’t able to take over.”
Monday marked the first time since October 29-November. 1 that the Heat have played back-to-back games with their core starting lineup of Adebayo, Butler, Herro, Kyle Lowry and Caleb Martin.
“We’ve got some guys that are still healing and healthy,” Spoelstra said.
However, the only players unavailable for the Heat on Monday night were preseason holdouts Victor Oladipo and center Omer Yurtseven, with Yurtseven now recovering from ankle surgery.
For Spoelstra, even in early December, nearly a third of the way through the season, it remains somewhat of a team coming together.
“We’re a team that relies on doing things in sync,” he said, “and there’s got to be some kind of synchronicity in the way we play, to be able to get our attacks and everything.”
So even now, cohesion remains a work in progress.
“Yes. I mean, that’s the point of an 82-game season, that’s the point of training, that’s the point of training,” Adebayo said, “to build those habits and continue to build that connection between all of us.”