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Another game, another failed Spurs’ comeback — this time to the Heat in Miami

Hassan Whiteside dominated on both sides of the court, helping the Heat beat the Spurs for the first time since LeBron left town.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat ended a nine game regular season losing streak to the Spurs tonight, which dated back to the Spurs’ 2014 championship season. Neither team was at full strength, with the Spurs missing Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay, and Dejounte Murray and the Heat missing Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, James Johnson, and Dion Waiters. Derrick White returned for the Spurs, putting in fifteen minutes of predictably rusty play, but showing flashes of the kind of point guard play the Spurs need to help take some of the burden off of DeMar DeRozan’s shoulders.

Game breakdown

If there’s something I’ve learned about the Spurs over the years, it’s that they are excellent at not repeating past mistakes. I was certain the Spurs were going to overcompensate for the previous game’s horrendous start and jump all over the Heat early. The Heat must have missed the memo, as they exploded for an early 15-0 run, mostly at the hands of Hassan Whiteside.

Whiteside had five of his nine blocks in the first eight minutes of the game, with each block coming against a different Spurs player. The Spurs are not a team that scores a lot of buckets inside the painted area - coming into tonight they were 29th in the NBA at 40 points a game - but with Whiteside manning the painted area, the Spurs ended up with only 24 points in the paint tonight. After the game, Pop said “I think he [Whiteside] had 37 blocks at half,” which strangely enough is the exact number I came up with in the unofficial stats I store in my brain during games. has the official number at eight, but I think they are mistaken.

Whiteside didn’t just dominate on the defensive end. He put together ten points in the first quarter and ended the game with a season high 29 points. Throw in 20 rebounds, and it’s clear the Spurs had absolutely no answer for Whiteside tonight.

After the early 15-0 run from the Heat, the Spurs spent the rest of the game trying to play catch-up. To the Spurs credit, they never gave up nor seemed fazed. Patty Mills kept the Spurs within shouting distance in the first half, scoring 14 points. Davis Bertans also showed signs of life, hitting a couple of three pointers in the first half. Mills and Bertans ended the game with 20 and 19 points respectively, though it took Mills 22 shots to get his 20 points, compared to Bertans’ 10 shot attempts.

The Spurs began the second half down eight, which felt like the absolute best case scenario. A Mills three pointer two minutes into the third quarter put the Spurs within five points, but the Spurs would only score two points over the next four minutes, and the Heat were once again able to extend their lead to double-digit points. It felt like the game was slipping away late in the third, but Bryn Forbes was able to bring the Spurs within 11 with a three pointer to end the quarter.

Wayne Ellington made his presence felt to start the fourth, hitting 2 three pointers and extending the Heat lead to 19 points. Nothing really seemed to happen throughout most of the fourth quarter, and an uninspired loss felt inevitable. With four minutes to play in the game, the Spurs found themselves down by 14 points. A four point run by DeRozan brought the Spurs within ten with three minutes to play. Over the course of the next two minutes of game play, the Heat would turn the ball over five times. Two of those turnovers led to easy baskets by Forbes, but the other three turnovers ended up leading to missed three pointers by Spurs players. Those misses proved to be too costly to overcome, and the Spurs found themselves on the losing end of another fourth quarter comeback.

The Spurs drop to 6-4 on the season, with their next game coming against the Houston Rockets in San Antonio on Saturday.

By the numbers

Statistic Spurs (Overall) Heat (Overall) Advantage (Overall) Spurs (Tonight) Heat (Tonight) Advantage (Tonight)
Statistic Spurs (Overall) Heat (Overall) Advantage (Overall) Spurs (Tonight) Heat (Tonight) Advantage (Tonight)
3P% 38.2 35.9 Spurs 40.6 31.2 Spurs
Turnovers 11.6 15.9 Spurs 12 13 Neutral
Fouls 19.3 22.7 Spurs 19 17 Neutral
Assists 24.3 22.4 Spurs 19 21 Neutral
Offensive Rating 109.7 108.1 Neutral 97.9 91.7 Heat
Score Margin 1 1.6 Neutral -7 7 Heat
TS% 54.4 53.9 Neutral 43.9 47.1 Heat
Defensive Rating 108.7 106.6 Neutral 91.7 97.9 Heat
Steals 7 7.1 Neutral 8 8 Neutral
Offensive Rebounds 11.2 12.7 Neutral 12 14 Neutral
FTA 22.6 27 Heat 14 18 Heat
Points in the Paint 40.8 46.6 Heat 24 46 Heat
Total Rebounds 45.7 50 Heat 49 60 Heat
Fastbreak Points 6.3 11.8 Heat 11 5 Spurs
Opponent Points in the Paint 49.8 44 Heat 46 24 Heat
Blocks 4.1 7.3 Heat 5 11 Heat

The Heat were able to neutralize three of the four main statistics in which the Spurs had an advantage coming into the game. The lone exception was three point shooting, where the Spurs shot a solid 40% to the Heat’s 31%.

Neutral statistics were all either won by the Heat or remained neutral. Out of all the statistics the Heat had the advantage in coming into the game, fast break points was the only one that proved to be advantageous for this Spurs in this one.

Considering that limiting the impact of Whiteside was likely a key to the game for the Spurs, allowing him to dominate on the boards and fire up the crowd with his blocks is not likely going to sit well with the coaching staff. I saw several plays where the Spurs’ players had inside position on their opponent, only to watch the opponent out muscle (or hustle) the Spurs player to the rebound.

Notes from the game

  • LaMarcus Aldridge had one of his worst offensive games in a Spurs uniform, scoring only six points on 2-14 shooting. Aldridge has been averaging a career high 3.4 assists this season, but had zero assists in this one. On the bright side, Aldridge did end up with 16 rebounds, though the eye test showed him being dominated by Whiteside the entire game.
  • Speaking of Aldridge, he’s shooting the worst percentage of his entire career. While Aldridge’s usage percentage is down from 29% a year ago to 26% this year, he’s still taking almost the identical amount of shots this season. Aldridge is actually taking a career best 43% of his shots from close to the basket, and shooting those shots at a solid 65%. The issue is everywhere else on the floor. 38% of Aldridge’s shots are coming from short or mid-range 2s, where as a career he has a FG% of 42%. This year he’s shooting 26% from these distances. I really hope this is just a result of a struggling shot, and not the result of Aldridge no longer being the focal point of the offense.
  • DeRozan had a quiet night from a scoring perspective, but still ended the game with 18 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, and a block, and was the only starter for the Spurs who ended up with a positive net rating. It’s great to see players who can still contribute in large ways, even when their main skill is not firing on all cylinders.
  • I need more aggressive Bertans in my life. When he’s taking (and making) three pointers from way beyond the arc, it opens up the offense in ways that are unheard of outside of Golden State. Bertans also moves great without the ball, and one of his cuts tonight led to a layup off a fantastic pass from White.
  • Marco Belinelli has struggled with his shot early in the season, but he still finds creative ways of getting open. Hopefully his shots start to fall. He’s never shy with the ball in his hands, so when he’s not making shots, it really hurts the flow of the offense. He missed a couple three pointers down the stretch that could have changed the outcome of the game.