MIAMI — Congratulations, Miami Heat, you just broke a two-game losing streak.
Your reward: A date Sunday night against the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors (17-6). Besides winning the league title in two of the past three years, the Warriors are also the favorites this season and are in fine form at the moment.
The Warriors dished out an NBA season-high 46 assists — one short of their franchise record — Friday night in a 133-112 victory at the Orlando Magic.
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“Forty-six assists is insane,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told sfgame.com after a game in which his team scored 41 points in the first quarter and 78 for the half. “If we can play with that kind of energy — with a little better judgment and defense — then we are on to something.”
Meanwhile, the Heat (11-11) are still trying to get untracked. After failing to make the playoffs last season with a 41-41 record — they were awful in the first half of the year and brilliant in the second — the Heat is once again mediocre through the 2017-2018 quarter-pole.
Worse yet, the Heat will be without center Hassan Whiteside, who is expected to miss at least two weeks because of a bone bruise on his left knee.
“I’m frustrated by it,” Whiteside told The Miami Herald. “But I’m not missing months. I’m not missing a significant amount of time.
“It could be worse. You’ve got guys missing a year-plus. I’m relieved I don’t have to go through that stuff.”
The Heat, who are starting rookie first-round pick Bam Adebayo in place of Whiteside, will likely play a perimeter-based game in an effort to keep up with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and the rest of the lethal Warriors’ attack.
On Friday against the Charlotte Hornets, the Heat set a franchise record with their 12th straight game with double-digit 3-pointers made. The Houston Rockets are the only NBA team with a longer active streak.
Miami small forward Josh Richardson, who scored a career-high 27 points against Charlotte, is part of that perimeter attack that is hoping to beat Golden State at its own game. Miami’s other 3-point shooters include Wayne Ellington, Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson.
Big men Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson can also shoot the ball with range. In fact, Olynyk leads Miami with 47.4 percent accuracy on 3-pointers. Ellington is second at 42.1 percent.
But Richardson is focused on defense, which is a good thing since the Warriors just blistered Orlando with 62.5 percent shooting.
“My game doesn’t start with offense — it starts with defense,” Richardson said. “It doesn’t matter how I’m shooting. If I score 27 points or two, I’m still going to guard my man as hard as I can.”
Every Heat player on the court Sunday will need that mentality as Golden State comes in playing exceptionally well. Thompson scored 27 points against Orlando, Durant had 25 points and seven assists, and Curry recorded 23 points and 10 assists.
“We moved well without the ball,” Durant told sfgate.com, “all of us.”
Last season, the Warriors ranked third in NBA history with 30.4 assists per game, making an art form out of the extra pass.
That style has not abated this season, and now it’s the Heat’s job to at least try to slow down the Warriors.