MIAMI (AP) – A pair of losses have the Miami Heat searching for answers defensively.
LeBron James doesn't think one game will solve those issues, but a matchup against the offensively-challenged New Orleans Hornets should only help.
James and the Heat look to begin showing marked improvement defensively and avoid matching their longest losing streak in 11 months Saturday night against the Hornets.
Although Miami (12-5) has one of the league's best records, the team is concerned with a defense that is allowing 100.6 points per game. That number is in stark contrast to last season, when the Heat surrendered 92.5 a contest and 90.3 during the playoffs en route to the NBA title.
"If it goes too long what it becomes is a tendency. If it goes longer than that it becomes a habit. If it continues by the time you get to the playoffs, that's who you are," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That's what we're looking to change right now."
The defensive issues were further brought to light following a 112-92 home loss to New York on Thursday after falling 105-101 at league-worst Washington two days earlier.
The Heat, who last dropped three in a row from Jan. 10-13, allowed their last two opponents to shoot 46.5 percent from the field and gave up 18 of 44 from 3-point range against the Knicks.
James is looking to respond in a big way, far beyond a meeting with the Western Conference-worst Hornets (5-13), who rank among the league's lowest scoring teams at 92.8 points per game.
"It's going to take more than that; one good game," he said. "We gotta have a string. We gotta have a month. We've had months before; month of December, month of January where we just absolutely get back to the way we're playing. That's defensively and also offensively moving the ball and sharing the ball.
"One game is not going to change it."
While James laments the defensive effort, he's doing his part offensively, ranking fourth in the league at 25.2 points per game after collecting 31 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists to fall just shy of back-to-back triple-doubles.
"My motivation is well beyond hoisting one trophy, and I'm not taking any shortcuts to get to that point, so I can't allow my teammates to take shortcuts," James said. "We gotta be better. I gotta be better. It's that simple."
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh certainly need to be better after they combined to miss 19 of 25 from the floor while totaling 25 points Thursday.
Facing New Orleans should get at least Wade going again. He's averaging 28.1 points in the last seven meetings, while Bosh was limited to 12 in a 109-95 victory on Jan. 30 in the only matchup last season.
Wade and James had 22 points apiece in that game, helping Miami beat the Hornets for the eighth time in 10 home meetings.
New Orleans is coming off a 1-4 homestand, during which it averaged 88.2 points.
The Hornets capped that stretch with Friday's 96-89 loss to NBA-best Memphis. Still, coach Monty Williams was encouraged despite his team's 11th loss in 13 games.
"It's close to the right effort," he said. "I'm proud of how we competed but my heart aches because you lost a game you had a chance to win."
Rookie Austin Rivers is trying to build on his season-high 15 points from Friday. He had totaled eight points over the previous four contests, going 3 for 23 from the field.
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