MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – The Miami Heat are a team that is still trying to find its footing during the early stages of the NBA season.
Dwyane Wade pointed out Miami’s defensive deficiencies after the team’s latest loss, but the Heat haven’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard of late either, failing to reach the century mark since facing the Atlanta Hawks nearly three weeks ago.
The Heat may need to top triple digits to keep up with the surging Hawks in Wednesday night’s rematch, and will almost certainly need a better defensive performance than the last meeting.
Miami (9-8) had perhaps its finest defensive showing of the season in an 86-79 win in New York on Sunday but followed with a 107-86 drubbing in Washington the next day. The Heat let the Southeast Division-leading Wizards shoot 54.2 percent and go 10 of 19 from 3-point range, while they missed 20 of 22 attempts from beyond the arc.
“I don’t think we’ve gotten to the defense we’ve wanted all year,” Wade said. “We’re still fairly new; a lot of the guys are still confused with a lot of things we’re trying to do.”
Despite that “confusion,” Miami is allowing slightly fewer points on average than in 2013-14, 97.0 to 97.4. The major difference is the Heat are scoring 95.7 points per game compared with 102.2 last season.
They’ve averaged 91.8 since a 114-103 loss in Atlanta on Nov. 14. Miami got at least 19 points from four players – paced by Mario Chalmers’ 23 – but allowed the Hawks to shoot 56.0 percent and put eight players in double figures.
The 114 points match the most allowed by the Heat this season.
Wade began a seven-game absence due to a hamstring injury in that defeat. He had a season-high 27 points in his return Sunday then scored 20 in Washington.
While the Heat have failed to reach 100 points since last month’s matchup, the Hawks (10-6) have hit that mark in a season-best five consecutive games and needed a high-scoring effort to rally past Boston on Tuesday. Atlanta trailed by 22 points early in the third quarter before pulling out a 109-105 victory, its third in a row and fifth in six games.
“You can’t do this on a regular basis,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “You can’t dig a hole and come out of it. I think it speaks to the resiliency of this group, but you can’t keep doing it.”
The Hawks have won three in a row over the Heat but all those games were in Atlanta. They’ve lost in each of their last five visits to Miami but went to overtime before falling 121-119 in the most recent one Dec. 23.
Wade has missed four of the last five meetings with Atlanta.
Paul Millsap scored 19 against Miami last month while Al Horford also had 19 on 8-of-10 shooting.
Atlanta’s previous win over the Heat capped a season-high, four-game win streak.
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