Heat’s Butler at season’s quarter pole, ‘We stand right where we don’t want to be, which is very mediocre’

MIAMI — There was a point when the Miami Heat thought they were gaining their footing.

That was amid a seven-game winning streak that ended on Nov. 18.

Now at 11-9 at the quarter pole of their season, traction again appears to be an abstract.

“We stand right where we don’t want to be,” forward Jimmy Butler said, “which is very mediocre — not good, not bad, not great, not any of those things, just mediocre.

“When you talk about our offense, it’s been mediocre. You talk about our defense, it’s been mediocre. So that’s the word that I would use.”

Since the seven-game winning streak and eventually a 10-5 record, the Heat have gone 1-4 since.

The latest skid has come with guard Tyler Herro still out from his Nov. 8 ankle sprain, center Bam Adebayo missing 2 1/2 of the past five games with left-hip contusion and forward Haywood Highsmith missing time with a back issue, after a hard fall a week ago against the Brooklyn Nets.

“We’ve had a lot of injuries,” guard Kyle Lowry said, with the Heat in the midst of a three-day break that ends with Wednesday night’s road game against the Toronto Raptors. “We could be better, of course. But we’ve missed a bunch of games with Tyler. Bam’s missed a few games. Jimmy’s missed a few games. We’ve all just been on the road.

“So I mean it could always be better. We did a good job of kind of maintaining.”

Guard Josh Richardson said even with 12 of the first 20 on the road, and even with the absences, there remained an expectation of more.

“I think we’re all right,” he said. “I think it could be better. It could be worse, too — so you’ve got to look at that.

“But with how much we’ve been on the road, with how many injuries we’ve had and everything, I think if we can get everyone back, I think we can put another streak together.”

The Heat, however, already have ruled Adebayo out for Wednesday’s game, with uncertainty now with Highsmith.

“We got a couple of days to kind of get some rest, get some healthy bodies and then go and beat Toronto and try to start a new streak,” Lowry said.

To coach Erik Spoelstra it stands as a matter of you are what your record says you are, with the Heat in a tie for seventh and eight places with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the middle of the Eastern Conference pack, in what again would be a play-in round seed.

“We’re 11-9 and where are we in the East,” he said, “that’s where we are.”

Defensive struggles

The 144 points yielded in Saturday night’s 144-129 loss to the Indiana Pacers at Kaseya Center was the second-highest total allowed in the Heat’s 36 seasons surpassed only by the 148 yielded to the Cavaliers in a Dec. 17, 1991 loss.

“They just attacked. They attacked everybody,” Butler said of the Heat’s lack of resistance at the point of attack. “And if they didn’t have a shot, they were going to find a way to get one.

“We got to do something to fix it, and very quickly.”

The Pacers’ .659 field-goal percentage, even in the illness absence of guard Tyrese Haliburton, was highest ever by a Heat opponent, surpassing the .644 allowed to the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 23, 1988, the franchise’s first season.

“We fouled ’em, we gave them the three, we gave them the middle,” Butler said, “and if they wanted a layup, we gave them that, as well.”

Over their past four games, the Heat have the NBA’s worst defensive rating.

“I think we’ve done a solid job overall,” Richardson said. “I mean, you’re going to have a few games like this throughout the year, so it’s no time to overreact. But it’s definitely we’re going to have to sit down, look at the film and figure some stuff out.”

Spoelstra made clear that would be happening.

“The disappointing thing is we score close to 130 points, you’re not expecting the Miami Heat to lose a game,” Spoelstra said.

“Our defense had been trending in a better direction, but we got to get a hold of that.”

Record run

While the defense deservedly has been lamented, Saturday’s result combined with Thursday night’s 142-132 victory over the visiting Pacers gave the Heat 271 points in the consecutive games. That is the highest total in any two-game span in the franchise’s 36 seasons. The previous record was 268, with 149 against the Denver Nuggets on March 19, 2018, followed by 119 two nights later against the New York Knicks. …

With all that offense, the Heat in the past two games set a franchise record of eight consecutive quarters with at least 30 points, with the games just the fourth and fifth times the Heat have scored 30 or more in each quarter in a game.