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Miami Heat searching for solutions to fix struggling offense

As painful as it was, the Heat gathered as a team Wednesday to watch the fourth quarter of Tuesday night’s loss to the Nets.

Not much went right in the period.

The Heat started the quarter ahead by three and ended it with a 12-point loss. Miami finished with just 15 points on 4-of-19 shooting (21.1 percent) from the field, 0-of-7 shooting from three-point range and 7-of-13 shooting from the free-throw line in the fourth.

“Today was all about solutions and trying to get better,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said following Wednesday’s practice. “Nobody’s happy about how this thing has been going. Enough about that. We just have continue to get better.”

A 6-11 start to the season has Miami searching for answers, as it begins a quick two-game trip Friday in Chicago against the Bulls (5-13). The Heat took Thanksgiving off before departing Miami.

While the Heat’s defense has been inconsistent through the first 17 games, it has still been solid overall with the 10th-best defensive rating in the league (allowing 107.4 points per 100 possessions). It’s actually the offense that’s turned into an issue for Miami.

The Heat has posted the sixth-worst offensive rating in the NBA, scoring 105.5 points per 100 possessions this season. Efficiency hasn’t been a strength either, with Miami owning the third-worst team shooting percentage at 43.5 percent and averaging the fifth-most turnovers at 16.5 per game.

“It’s a bit of a mixed bag,” Spoelstra said Wednesday when asked for the reasons behind the offensive struggles. “It’s a domino effect. Getting organized, understanding what we’re looking for and then the decision-making on top of that. We’ll continue to get better at it. We worked on those layers today.

“It’s getting to our strengths more often than we get to our weaknesses. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. Today was about reminders of what we’re good at and we want to get to those things more often.”

What are the Heat’s strengths on offense? Spoelstra pointed to “the driving, the attacking, the offensive rebounding and getting to the free-throw line.”

Those strengths have been a big part of Miami’s formula this season, with the Heat averaging the most drives to the basket, sixth-most offensive rebounds and eighth-most free-throw attempts per game. The problem is the efficiency hasn’t been there, as Miami is shooting 40.9 percent on drives (league worst) and 71.6 percent on free throws (fifth-worst in the NBA).

There are still 65 regular-season games to play, but the Heat knows it needs to turn things around fast. Improved and efficient offensive play would help.

“Keep encouraging these guys, man. I’m going to keep pushing these guys,” team captain and 16-year veteran Udonis Haslem said. “I’m going to keep making sure we work hard in practice. I’m going to make sure these guys understand that the only way we’re going to dig ourselves out of this hole is if we change some things. Nobody is coming. No cavalry is saving us. Nobody feels sorry for us. We’re going to have to pick ourselves up from the bootstraps and dig ourselves out of this hole.”

* Guards Dion Waiters (left ankle surgery), Tyler Johnson (strained right hamstring) and Goran Dragic (right knee) will not travel with the Heat for its two-game trip to Chicago and Toronto. That means they will miss Miami’s next two games.

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