Erik Spoelstra not making excuses for Heat’s slow offensive start: ‘We’re better than what we’ve shown’

Khobi Price, South Florida Sun Sentinel

The Miami Heat’s uneven offensive start to the season isn’t something coach Erik Spoelstra is ready to put a grade on just yet.

“It is so early,” Spoelstra said Sunday, with the Heat 2-3 on the season. “You know what we did today? We worked on it. It’s going to get better. We know it will. But there’s no point in me talking about all the little details.”

After finishing last season tied for the seventh-best offensive rating in the NBA (111.9), the Heat entered Monday’s matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder at AmericanAirlines Arena tied for the third-worst offensive rating in the league (101.8).

Because of last season’s offensive success that they replicated in the playoffs (112.7 offensive rating in the postseason) before falling two victories short of winning the NBA Finals, the Heat are confident they’ll find their scoring groove once again.

“We just need to figure out how to get on the same page,” Goran Dragic said. “I feel like we’ve been a little sloppy and we need to clean up a couple of things. When you have the formula for success, then you just need to clean it up a little bit.”

One of the main things the Heat are hoping to shore up is their turnover issues.

Miami was turnover prone last season with 14.9 percent of its possessions ending in a giveaway (tied for the 22nd-worst mark in the league). But the Heat have coughed the ball up even more to start this season with nearly 1/5 of their possessions (19.5 percent) ending in a turnover for the worst mark in the league.

The Cleveland Cavaliers had the worst turnover percentage in the league last season at 16.5 percent. No team has finished a season turning the ball over on 17 percent or more of its possessions since the 23-59 Phoenix Suns in the 2015-16 season (17.3 percent), according to the league’s advanced stats data that goes back to the 1996-97 season.

When they take care of the ball, the Heat are one of the more efficient shooting teams in the league despite a cold start from beyond the arc (33.7 percent for No. 21 in the league after making 37.9 percent of 3-pointers last year for the second-best mark in the NBA).

But being last in the league in both turnover and offensive rebounding rate hasn’t given Miami many chances to score, with the Heat averaging a league-low 79.4 field goal attempts per game.

“The familiarity is already there,” Spoelstra said. “It’s about doing what fits our strengths the best more often. That’s one of the areas where we can really improve.”

The Heat aren’t going to use Jimmy Butler missing two of their games so far — or his rocky offensive production when he was on the floor — as an excuse.

Butler went 0 for 6 from the field with two free throws and two assists in his return to the floor after a two-game absence in the Heat’s 93-83 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.

He missed Miami’s Tuesday-Wednesday home set against the Milwaukee Bucks due to a right ankle sprain he sustained in the Heat’s season-opener on Dec. 23, with the injury limiting him to only playing in the first half of Miami’s win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Dec. 25, which Butler finished 2 of 7 from the field for four points to go along with five assists and six rebounds in 16:13 minutes played.

“We’re better than what we’ve shown,” Spoelstra said, “and our guys know that we’re better than this.

“But this league is tough. There are really good teams, great defenses out there. We have to play better together to generate the kind of looks that fit our team the best and that takes some real intention.”

At the same time, the Heat recognize how crucial Butler is for their offense.

“He’s a big part of this team,” Dragic said. “He’s our leader. We follow him. It takes time to get back into rhythm. I feel like [Monday’s] going to be completely different. I know that he’s going to bounce back. When he’s playing well, everybody follows.”