The Miami Heat usually rely on their defense to win them games, but with the personnel they currently have due to injuries, the Heat have struggled mightily to provide any resistance in stopping teams.
"We struggled again in one-on-one situations, whether it was in the man or in the zone when they [Clippers] just kind of isolated in the zone," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after Miami's defense was shredded in a 121-104 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Crypto.com Arena Monday night.
After Miami took a 12-point lead heading into the second quarter, the Clippers were able to get a wide assortment of open looks with dribble penetration and crisp ball movement which had the Heat's zone and man defense in scramble mode.
The Miami Heat usually rely on their defense to win games, but injuries have hurt them at the point of attack.
Suddenly, Miami found themselves trailing by 10 entering the fourth after allowing back-to-back 36-point quarters. The Heat stayed in the game as long as they could but, bolstered by the return of Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers continued to score in bunches and Miami was unable to keep up.
Overall, the Clippers shot at an incredibly efficient rate with their percentages for the game being 58.8 percent from the field and 48.3 percent from three.
Miami's inability to guard the point of attack has caused their defense to be out of position. And in a matchup against the Clippers with three players that can score from almost everywhere on the court in Leonard, Paul George and James Harden, the Heat found themselves overwhelmed once their shots began to fall.
"I think we're playing against really talented offensive players," Kyle Lowry said in regards to their struggles when guarding the ball. "I think we sometimes get into positions where they shift us and we open up and sometimes you have to just find a way to keep your man in front."
Given who's available, outside of Bam Adebayo, there's not many players on the roster that can hold their own consistently when tasked to defend on the ball. Players such as Jamal Cain and R.J. Hampton have shown stretches of doing so, but their offensive inconsistencies make it difficult for Spoelstra to play them in long stretches.
To close out the road trip, Miami will be facing the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns that feature superstars in LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.
It's unclear if the Heat will receive any defensive help for those games with Haywood Highsmith, Jimmy Butler, Caleb Martin and Josh Richardson all injured. But even with the Heat dealing with yet another spate of injuries, Spoelstra made it known that they will exhaust all options to find a way to win.
"We'll do whatever we have to do," Spoelstra said. "Nobody cares if we have guys out, and we're not making any excuses for it."