Instead, he pointed to the absence of point guard Goran Dragic, who had missed 12 of the previous 14 games with knee soreness before undergoing surgery Wednesday.
“We’ve been a little bit more methodical. I wouldn’t say we’re intentionally slowing down,” Spoelstra said. “You just take Goran Dragic out of the lineup, our running opportunities are not the same. He’s a one-man wrecking crew, a one-man fast break. He forces the tempo and we’ve built a lot of our offense based on his ability to push and our younger players being able to run with him. Justise [Winslow] has that ability, not to the extent of Goran.
“I think that’s probably the biggest thing. We’ve had to adjust our tempo and pace based on availability of guys.”
The Heat’s current three-game winning streak, their longest of the season, has been built on scoring totals of 100, 102 and 101 points, an average that puts the Heat’s five points below the 106.6 overall average that has them 23rd in the league.
As for Dragic, Spoelstra said he wouldn’t necessarily bet on his starting point guard missing as much time as expected, with the team having said he would be out through the Feb. 17 NBA All-Star Game.
“Goran was here [Thursday] doing treatment before the game,” Spoelstra said. “I thought it was awesome. Goran, his fortitude and his character, whatever they say it’s going to be, he’s going to be pushing for an earlier date. But only his body will know.”
Leading the way
With his 22 points in Thursday night’s victory over the Houston Rockets, Josh Richardson has a team-leading 13 games this season with 20 or more in his 29 appearances. He had 13 such games over his previous 186 games entering the season.
“It’s probably a combination of things,” Richardson said Friday, as the Heat turned their attention to Saturday’s visit by the Milwaukee Bucks. “The ball’s finding me, but I changed my mindset this summer on how I’m going to play. So it’s the combination of opportunity and aggressiveness.”
Richardson also continues to evolve into a playmaker, with seven assists against the Rockets, the team-leading eighth time he has led the Heat in assists this season.
“It’s definitely been a conscious effort trying to get better at my reads off ball screens, and when I drive being able to hit guys,” he said. “So it’s definitely been a thing that I’m actively working on.”
Spoelstra said guard Dion Waiters, cleared this week for contact work for the first time since January ankle surgery, went through Friday’s practice without restriction.
“He’s making great progress,” Spoelstra said.
But Spoelstra cautioned this is not the case of a player needing to get in a single contact practice before returning.
“This is different,” he said. “He’s been out a year.”
Spoelstra said Waiters recently passed the team-mandated conditioning tests that normally is handled prior to the start of training camp.
“He’s very close in terms of his weight and body fat,” Spoelstra said. “He’s passed virtually everything to this point and it’s time to get him more work.”
By playing the entire 12 minutes of the fourth quarter in Thursday’s victory, it was the fifth time in the last seven games forward Derrick Jones Jr. has done so. In the two games he didn’t during that span, he played all but one second in the fourth quarter of the road victory over the New Orleans Pelicans and all but 22 seconds of the fourth quarter of the road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
With his 27:10 of action against the Rockets, Jones has played 20 or more minutes in a career-high-tying six consecutive games.
Not over until
Although it is somewhat distressing that the Heat have had eight double-digit deficits in the first quarter through their first 30 games, the victory over the Rockets was the third time they have overcome such a deficit.
The Heat rallied from 16 down in the first period Thursday after winning when falling behind by 11 in the first quarter on Oct. 24 against the New York Knicks and by 19 in the first quarter on Dec. 2 against the Utah Jazz, with those comebacks, like Thursday’s, at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Thursday marked the first time in 26 games center Hassan Whiteside failed to block at least one shot, a streak that dated to last season. He had done so in his first 24 appearances this season.
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