After loss, Heat must turn focus to fixing defense

MIAMI — Increased ball movement has helped make the Miami Heat’s offense more efficient in recent games.

It’s clear the Heat now need to work on their defense.

Jeff Green’s 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Boston Celtics a dramatic 111-110 victory over the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Saturday night.

Although Green’s Ray Allen-like trey from the right corner delivered the winning points, it was Boston’s ability to stay close all night that did in Miami.

Staying close was something the Heat struggled with when it came to defending.

“It doesn’t come down to that one play,” said Chris Bosh, who had 20 points and seven rebounds.

“You give a team confidence, they’ll come in and start hitting shots. And then it comes down to one shot, which it shouldn’t be. It lines up perfectly for them.”

Miami (4-3) shot 57.7 percent (41 of 71) and had 26 assists. The Heat did miss 11 of 34 free throws but still scored at least 100 points for the seventh straight game to open the season.

The Celtics not only hit 51.7 percent (46 of 89) of their shots and 10 of 21 from 3-point range, they had 10 more fastbreak points (15-5) and 8 more second-chance points (13-5) than Miami. And it seemed there were many times Boston followed a Heat hoop by racing down court and earning a quick basket.

“We did many things where we did not deserve to win that game and it cost us at the end,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Even when it looked like we had daylight, we just were not doing enough of the little things or the tough things the way we’re capable of.

“And I think it’s pretty clear we were just trying to win this game at the offensive end. And it’s a shame that that type of offensive game gets outshadowed by an extremely poor defensive effort.”

With 0.6 seconds showing and Miami ahead 110-108, Dwyane Wade missed two foul shots — actually he failed to hit anything on the second try. He was attempting to miss the second shot by hitting the rim and running out the clock — he failed.

Just as with Green’s 3-pointer, Wade’s free-throw violation simply was a climax to the previous 47-plus minutes.

“It wasn’t one of our better hours,” Wade said. “It wasn’t a good defensive effort. If we would have won this game, we would have stolen one.”

No such luck.

The Heat players exited the Triple A knowing what they would be working on before playing Milwaukee at home on Tuesday night.

“We aren’t playing really good defense right now through the whole season,” Bosh said. “We have to fix it. We gave up a ton of layups. That’s uncharacteristic of this team.”

Spoelstra was more descriptive in talking about a defense that was rated 27th of 30 teams both in allowing 105.4 points per every 100 possessions by the opposition and by letting teams shoot 47.3 percent.

“The lack of awareness, the energy, the effort,” Spoelstra said when asked about the primary defensive issues. “Running it down our gut. Beating us off the dribble. Open shots all night.”

When the Heat needed to become more efficient offensively in the season’s early going, ball movement was stressed. That’s something clearly visible on a possession and under the assists column on a game’s final stats sheet. In the past four games, Miami has 116 assists on 157 field goals.

The keys to playing good defense, however, often aren’t as easily defined.

“Communication has a lot to do with it,” said James, who had 25 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds.

“Being on a string, helping one another. And committing to your guy first and worrying about help second.”

Actually, worrying about defense is now top priority for Miami.

Charlie McCarthy can be reached at mac1763@bellsouth.net or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas.