“We should play like that every game,” Goran Dragic said Sunday after the Miami Heat pushed hard in a 106-99 loss to regal San Antonio.
If they do, they will win all the games that they should win and surprise a few of the elite teams along the way.
Tonight’s home game with Sacramento qualifies as one that Miami needs to get in order to keep on pace with any kind of distant postseason fantasy. The Kings missed the playoffs last year at 33-49 and have a 14-game losing streak at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Won’t be easy, though, for Heat big man Hassan Whiteside or anyone else.
Last Thursday Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins had 37 points and 16 rebounds in a 102-94 loss to the Spurs.
Whiteside also was great against the Spurs on Sunday, matching a career-high of 27 points and adding his usual 15 rebounds, but the Spurs rested LaMarcus Aldridge that night. Cousins didn’t get that break when he played San Antonio.
Maybe the best way to do this is to carve up the schedule into pieces.
Miami plays seven playoff teams from last year in the month of November and seven that didn’t qualify. An 8-6 record against that group would be great. To get only five or six wins, on the other hand, would be pretty discouraging since coach Erik Spoelstra is going all out for victories this time of year. The better teams can afford to put it into overdrive later.
Consider this pregame quote from Sunday when Spo was told that Gregg Popovich would be resting Aldridge and Danny Green against the Heat. Long-term maintenance only.
“Well, we won’t be resting tonight,” said Spo, who got 39 minutes out of Justise Winslow and 35 from Whiteside. ”We know well enough that they can have guys out and it really does not matter.”
File this away, meanwhile, under encouraging signs for the 1-2 Heat.
Dragic scored 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, really asserting his leadership. That hasn’t been the case in the past against the Spurs. His career average against San Antonio was only 9.0 points coming into this game.
Also, Winslow just missed his career high for points. He scored 18 against the Spurs, two short of the 20 he scored as a rookie against Denver last March.
“That is about as many calories as you can burn in a 39-minute game,” said Spo, “because you’re going up against an MVP-caliber player (Kawhi Leonard). You have to defend and get through all the screens, and on the other end he is required to make a lot of plays.
“He has great maturity for a young player.”