MILWAUKEE -- The Heat blew a fourth quarter lead and lost a game it shouldn't have Wednesday. It dropped Miami 1 1/2 games back of the Boston Celtics for third place in the Eastern Conference and left the Heat just a game up on the Atlants Hawks for fourth place.
There's plenty more to digest from the Heat's sixth loss to the Bucks in their last seven meetings:
1. Coach Erik Spoelstra yanked Hassan Whiteside out in the first half and had a talk with him on the Heat bench
Anytime the coach feels the need to pull a player and have a talk with him on the bench in the middle of the game it raises eyebrows. And that becomes a bigger deal when it involves a coach whose had words with that same player before.
In this case, though, what Spoelstra and Whiteside had to discuss took only 47 seconds to iron out and probably had to do with Whiteside not doing what he was supposed to do on the defensive end. Otherwise, if it was a bigger deal, Whiteside probably would not have gone right back into the game.
He finished the first half with 19 points, seven rebounds and two blocks and although he returned in the second half a couple minutes later than he normally does neither Whiteside nor Spoelstra seemed to make a big deal about it.
"We didn't have a conflict. We had a conversation," Whiteside said. "It wasn't a conflict between me and Spo.
"I'm just here to play," Whiteside later said. "Whatever he says I just try to go out there and do it and try to play to the best of my abilities. I try to rebound and block shots and dunk on people. I just try to be the best Hassan Whiteside I can be on the court."
2. Josh Richardson is continuing to make quite the impression
The Heat's second round pick finished with 14 points, two assists, two steals and a block in 24 minutes off the bench and had plenty of highlights.
- He stopped a 4-on-1 Bucks break by blocking a shot near the basket and it turned into a fast break for the Heat that ended with a Whiteside dunk.
- He made three of his four three-point attempts including a clutch three-pointer in the third quarter with Jarryd Bayless in his face when the Heat badly needed it (Richardson is now 8 for his last 14 on three-point attempts).
- And, he had this ridiculous dunk...
Whiteside had the best quote from anybody on the Richardson dunk: "It was amazing. I was really surprised by it. I know he can jump, but the way he took off. I had the best view in the house besides Greg [Monroe]."
Said Richardson of the dunk: "I don't know. I just saw a lane. I took it."
3. Are the Heat relying too much on its fast-paced offense to bail them out and not playing as hard on defense anymore?
Spoelstra kind of insinuated that and his rookies backed him up.
"We just didn't bring enough from a competitive, defensive standpoint," Spoelstra said. "We had pockets of the game where we competed. We did things we were capable of. That's a unique basketball team and their ability to attack and get to the paint. We had a lot of breakdowns defensively and it's not enough.
"You just figure -- we say this all the time -- we score 108 points [that should be enough]. Look, our identity has not changed. We're not a team that's just trying to outscore you and come in here and see if we can put more points on the board and win that way. On the road it's got to be tough, it's got to be gritty. We have to get multiple stops without fouling. You do have to credit Milwaukee. They were aggressive. They were the more aggressive team for most of the night. They really put a lot pressure on you with dribble penetration, coming at you different ways. They're relentless. They don't stop attacking. So, it has to be every possession."
The Bucks took 37 free throws in the game, the most allowed by the Heat this season. Miami gives up the third fewest free throws in the NBA per game (20.7). Was that officiating? Was that the Heat being lazy on defense and not getting to the spots as fast they need to? Spoelstra will go over that in film study Thursday in Chicago.
But you can't argue against this stat: since the All-Star break, the Heat is giving up 101.4 points per game (9th fewest in league). That's not bad, but still a drop off from where the Heat was before the break when it was giving up 96.3 points per game (2nd fewest).
"Some games [since the break] we've gotten away with just outscoring people," rookie Justise Winslow said. "But down the stretch, especially in the playoffs, the defense has to do a better job of showing up and making it tougher on teams. Like I said, we've gotten away with just outscoring a couple teams and relying on our talent. But we'll get back to the defensive floor. I'm not too worried about it."