Heat hopes chemistry lessons lead to win over Pacers (Dec 14, 2016)

BY AP • December 13, 2016

MIAMI -- The team that bonds together wins together -- or so the Miami Heat hopes.

One day after the team sat in a luxury suite -- as guests of forward Udonis Haslem -- and watched the Miami Dolphins defeat the Arizona Cardinals on a last-second field goal, the Heat players enjoyed a home victory of their own.

The Heat snapped a five-game losing streak by defeating the Washington Wizards 112-101 on Monday night. Point guard Goran Dragic led the way with 34 points, the most he has scored in his two years with the Heat.

Next up, Miami (8-17) plays host to the Indiana Pacers (13-12) on Wednesday night.

As for Dragic, who was plus-25 on Monday, the Sunday outing was the first time he has watched an NFL game in person.

"I prefer soccer more," said Dragic, who grew up in Europe, where the other kind of football is king. "But this is my ninth year in the U.S. I like watching (American) football. I understand the rules a lot better now than before. It's an interesting game."

The only Heat player who did not attend the Dolphins' game was guard Dion Waiters, who was given a pass, Haslem said, because he had made previous plans to celebrate his 25th birthday.

Haslem, a native of Miami whose son is a high school senior offensive lineman for local power St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the 10 best teams in the nation, is a huge football fan.

Every time there was a touchdown scored in Sunday's Dolphins game, Haslem made sure to find Dragic.

"That's American football baby!" Haslem yelled to Dragic.

Besides all the jokes, there was a business side to bonding over food and football at the Dolphins game.

Haslem, a veteran of the three Heat NBA championship teams, said that those previous squads all had great chemistry.

That type of trust is a work in progress on the current Heat team, which has gotten together a couple of times this season in ways similar to the Dolphins game.

For example, in Portland, the team met for a meal at Hoyt23, a restaurant that's owned in part by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

Of course, team chemistry will only take you so far. A playoff team needs sufficient talent, and the Heat is clearly lacking in that area at the moment.

Part of the problem has been injuries.

Center Hassan Whiteside is the only member of the team who has played in every game this season.

Dragic has missed five games -- and it's a major loss any time he's out. Forward Justise Winslow has missed 16 games and is still not back due to a wrist injury. Wayne Ellington, one of the few pure shooters on this team, missed the season's first 16 games. Waiters has missed nine games and is still out.

In addition, Josh Richardson missed 10 games to start the season, Josh McRoberts missed nine games, and James Johnson, who has become a key player off the bench, missed four games.

Add it all up, and the Heat may be one of the most injury-riddled team in the league so far this season.

But the Heat, even though not at full strength with the injuries to Winslow and Waiters, will try to handle the Pacers, who won both games of their mini-homestand in the past week, beating the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday and the Charlotte Hornets on Monday.

Paul George led Indiana with 37 points against Portland and 22 against Charlotte.

Indiana will be without starting guard Monta Ellis (groin), who has been ruled out for this three-game road trip. Reserve guard Rodney Stuckey (knee) is questionable after being hurt against the Hornets.

The Stuckey loss could be even more difficult for the Pacers to overcome than the one to Ellis. Pacers coach Nate McMillan had been using Stuckey to close out games recently.

"Stuckey's been doing a great job on both ends of the court," McMillan told reporters. "He guards well on the perimeter, and he can initiate offense."

Indiana has lost its past three games in Miami.

Of course, this is a much different Heat team. In fact, the Heat are just 3-8 at home this season.

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