Miami Heat season filled with ups and downs

BY foxsports • January 21, 2010

So far, this week has been a perfect microcosm of the Miami Heat season. Blowout winners Tuesday night against Indiana, blowout losers 24 hours later in Charlotte.

And even the Heat can't understand why it's happening.

At 21-20, Miami has reached the midway point of its season without having spent a single day under .500, and entered Thursday sixth in the Eastern Conference. But it's almost like the Heat are merely fighting to stay above water these days, having lost by at least 18 points three times since Jan. 11.

And after Wednesday's 39-point drilling at Charlotte - one of the worst offensive showings in franchise history, one night after beating Indiana 113-83 - Miami is a lowly 1-6 on the second night of back-to-back games. It had coach Erik Spoelstra choosing his words carefully in the moments that followed.

``We have a very ... very ... very ugly side to us,'' Spoelstra said Wednesday night.

That's troubling to a team that entered the year convinced it would improve on last year's 43-39 mark.

``It's in our heads,'' second-year forward Michael Beasley said this week. ``It's just the willingness to do it. Some games we want to, some games we don't. Some games we've got all the energy in the world. Some games, we just don't. I think if we stay consistent, there's no limit on how far we can go this season.''

Optimism may still reign, but exactly who are the Heat anyway?

Are they the team that started the year 6-1 and has already won at tough places like Orlando, Portland, Phoenix and Houston? Or the team that has the NBA's third-worst record on the second night of back-to-backs (behind Memphis and woeful New Jersey), ranks 28th in the 30-team league in scoring since Jan. 1 despite having Dwyane Wade and dropped seven games by 15 points or more?

No one knows, least of all Spoelstra, who even went as far as to question the Heat's professionalism after the 104-65 loss in Charlotte.

``There's a good side to us and there's this very ugly side that we need to do something about,'' Spoelstra said. ``This is not acceptable and this trend of what we've done on back-to-backs, we've got to look at everything from A to Z and see what changes we have to make.''

Like all coaches, Spoelstra has buzz words that he uses after nearly every practice and game.

He's talked lately about the ``purity'' of the Heat effort, adding that to what's always been the cornerstones of the Miami organization since Pat Riley's arrival in the mid-1990s - defense, focus and execution.

Some nights it works. Some nights it doesn't. There usually isn't any in-between.

Through Wednesday, Miami was one of only three teams in the league to have at least 11 wins by double-digits and 11 losses by double-digits. Typically, it's one or the other (for example, Cleveland entered Thursday 18-3 in double-digit games, while New Jersey was 0-27), but the Heat have taken on a distinctive Jekyll and Hyde feel through the season's first half.

``We have to evaluate where we are, what we need to improve, what we need to get more consistent at to take the next step as a team,'' Spoelstra said this week. ``It comes down to this with us, it really does - when we are committed wholeheartedly to defend and to do it with energy and consistency, we're a very good basketball team. And we've proven that.''

Sure enough, the numbers bear that out.

Miami is 6-15 when teams score 100 points, 15-5 when teams score 99 or less.

``We get drilled on that,'' Beasley said.

Off on Thursday, the Heat have another back-to-back Friday and Saturday, first in Washington before returning home to face Sacramento. Now having lost, at least temporarily, the No. 5 spot in the East to surging Charlotte, and with a slew of teams nipping at their heels for No. 6, Miami knows this is a critical time for playoff positioning.

``We have to bounce back,'' Spoelstra said. ``We've done this before. So we move on.''

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