Heat Players Reveal ‘Main Issue’ for Eastern Conference Tumble

Precious Achiuwa

Getty Heat rookie forward Precious Achiuwa has drawn comparisons to a young Bam Adebayo.

The Miami Heat have fallen by 27 points and 13 points in back-to-back nights to swell the losing streak to four games. Not having top scoring threats like Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro have certainly played a major factor but there’s an easier fix. The Heat needs to attack the first quarter.

The Denver Nuggets raced out to a 26-12 lead after the first frame on Wednesday night as they zeroed in on locking down Bam Adebayo. They mixed coverages on the All-Star center and held him to 15 points, Adebayo’s’ lowest output since Jan. 22. It all led to a 109-82 blowout loss at American Airlines Arena. Miami sits 13th place in the Eastern Conference standings with a 6-11 record.

“Main issue is we got to stop playing from behind, down 10-plus every night,” Adebayo told reporters. “It seems like we get out there and in the first five minutes they’re up 11-2, 11-4 — and then we got to fight back. I feel like that’s the biggest thing we have to overcome — get off to a great start. And that doesn’t mean we got to make every shot, that just means we got to come with the level of intensity, effort, multiple efforts, to slow them down.”

The Heat strung together an impressive third-quarter run where they clawed back to within seven points. Then the short-handed squad just ran out of gas. Again. Butler missed his ninth straight game and Herro sat out his fifth consecutive contest, with Goran Dragic absent due to a groin strain.

“I never said we were going to give up, that’s not the culture, we don’t give up,” Adebayo said. “We are going to break through this barrier soon, like I said, we’re in a storm and the sun’s gotta come out sometime — and I’m positive, always send out a positive vibe, and we’re getting guys back so that’s going to be better for us, getting all the guys together.”

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Avery Bradley Returns to Heat Lineup

Heat guard Avery Bradley saw action in his first game back since Jan. 9 after testing positive for COVID-19. The defensive stopper scored eight points in 18 minutes while admitting to being “extremely gassed” at times. Bradley had been sitting around the house in isolation and only returned to the gym four days ago.

“I think the most you can do is just prepare mentally,” Bradley said. “Watch film and make sure that you’re staying engaged, talking to your teammates, you’re there with them sharing your input after games, just making sure that you’re still a part of the team. It’s hard not being able to get into the gym, but I feel like there are always ways to get better.”

Butler was on the bench cheering on his teammates as he looks to clear the final hurdle on his return. He has been out since Jan. 9 as well due to health and safety protocols. Despite not being available to play, Butler’s presence was an encouraging sign for the Heat. The biggest challenge will be waiting for his conditioning to get up to speed, a problem Bradley was dealing with on Wednesday night.

“There were times I felt like I was extremely gassed,” Bradley said. “But I just tried to push through it every single possession I played tonight and I know it’s going to take some time, but for me, I’m just staying confident, and playing as hard as I can. I feel like I can make up for some mistakes if I play as hard as I can on every possession.”


Valuable Minutes for Precious Achiuwa

It was magical to see Precious Achiuwa on the court at the same time as Adebayo. The rookie power forward is a physical freak — 6-foot-9, with a chiseled 234-pound frame — who carries himself like a seasoned veteran. Achiuwa scored 10 points in 20 minutes against Denver, including a six-minute stretch in the second quarter alongside Adebayo.

“I was happy to get out there with the young fella,” Adebayo said. “I was telling them guys, he reminds him so much of myself when I was a rookie. He wants to get out there. He wants to learn. He wants to do everything right and I can vouch for a dude like that.”

Achiuwa’s name keeps getting mentioned as a possible trade piece in a potential deal for Bradley Beal but it’s clear the Heat value him. The 20th overall pick is averaging 7.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game through 17 contests.

“I feel like he’s going to be a great player in this league one of these days and he’s got the work ethic,” Adebayo said. “I’m proud of the kid and he impresses me, man, kudos to him. I’m looking forward to his future.”

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