Erik Spoelstra refuses to use Jimmy Butler’s absence as excuse for why Miami Heat lost to L.A. Clippers

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Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports

Erik Spoelstra quickly dismissed the notion that the Miami Heat lost to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday because his team did not have Jimmy Butler available.

The head coach expressed his disappointment with the Heat’s defense in the 121-104 defeat.

“I have to go to work, and we have to get to work on that,” Spoelstra said. “Defensively, we can be better. That’s not taking away from anything that the Clippers did. We struggled again in one-on-one situations, whether it was in the man or in the zone when they just kind of isolated in the zone and repeated attacks off the dribble.

“There’s some, that these guys are great players, so if they hit it over the top, for something where they get to their spots, but the ones that they broke our defense down and got either a layup or right at the rim, those were just way too costly.”

Asked about not having one of his key defenders in Butler, Spoelstra was terse in his reply.

“I don’t care about that,” he said. “Nah, I don’t care about that.”

Spoelstra then commented on the play of the Heat’s switching defense led by Bam Adebayo.

“We did not do well, no,” the head coach said.

Butler sat out the defeat with a foot injury he suffered Saturday against the Utah Jazz. The 34-year-old was playing that game after missing the previous four because of a strained calf. Miami had won those four games without Butler, but after two straight losses, the Heat will take a 19-14 record into a meeting against the Los Angeles Lakers right back at Arena on Wednesday.

“We’ll do whatever we have to do,” Spoelstra said of crafting a lineup. “Everybody’s ready. Nobody cares if we have guys out. And we’re not making any excuses for it. We had enough guys to get this win tonight. We had a lot of our main guys in this game tonight. And they just outplayed us. And you have to credit them, and we’ll work to get better.”

Spoelstra was especially critical of the Heat’s play on defense against the Clippers. After building a 14-point lead in the first half, Miami wound up trailing at halftime, and Los Angeles pulled away to start the third quarter.

Adebayo led the Heat with 21 points, and Kevin Love contributed 17 points off the bench to lead the offense without Butler. Tyler Herro managed just 12 points, by far his lowest output in his seven games since returning from an ankle injury on Dec. 18.

Miami also was without Josh Richardson (back) and Caleb Martin (ankle). Butler reportedly had X-rays on his foot which did not reveal any damage, and he will continue to receive treatment.

Spoelstra is correct in that the Heat have been able to win plenty of games with the players they’ve had available so far this season. They enter NBA play Tuesday in fifth place in the Eastern Conference despite using 17 different players and 15 different starters this season. Jamal Cain played more than 34 minutes against the Clippers in his first start of the season but managed just nine points on 4-for-12 shooting from the field.

The road trip against Western Conference teams ends Friday at the Phoenix Suns before the Heat return home to start a four-game home stand on Monday against the Houston Rockets.

Despite asserting the Heat will not make excuses with Butler being sidelined, the head coach is undoubtedly hoping he will have his star player back on the court sooner rather than later.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. His introduction to the business included the legendary Heat-Knicks rivalry from the 1990s.