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Heat Beat: Early season road bump

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MIAMI – For the second straight night, the Heat's offense hit some cold stretches and a lack of consistent defense put them in a hole. It's a formula that simply won't work with this Heat roster.

Despite quality ball movement early in the season, the defense just hasn't found its stride, in particular its perimeter defense. Teams are exploiting Miami's inability to rotate to the open man and it's leaving opposing players open behind the 3-point line. Again, this is to be expected early in the season with so many new parts, but that doesn't mean it can't be figured out soon.

The good news is that unlike the Rockets game, the Heat were able to make a late push in Charlotte. But, a sloppy turnover and missed opportunities did them in.

What's Erik Spoelstra to do? Well, first of all, getting three key players back would sure help. Miami is really missing the inside presence of Chris "Birdman" Andersen and Udonis Haslem, while they haven't been able to see the versatility Danny Granger can provide yet.

The fact that Justin Hamilton is getting key minutes in the rotation should tell you Miami is very shorthanded in the front court.

Aside from returning players, it's just a matter of guys getting comfortable on defense. Any team can deal with an offensive drought as long as the defense is strong. Right now, that is not the case for the Heat.

I'd expect that defense to get better as time goes on and getting back those key players will certainly help.

Looking at the positives, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade both continue to put up good numbers, especially Bosh, who had his third double-double of the season. The emergence of Shabazz Napier as a key contributor down the stretch has been a pleasant surprise and it bodes well for the rest of the season.

For now, the Heat will get a couple of days to learn from their mistakes before another set of back-to-back games this weekend.

Finally, don't discount the fact that Miami is in the middle of a four game in five-night stretch. Given their depth issues, that's not an ideal formula this early in the season. If they can bounce back at home Saturday against Minnesota, it would set up an interesting matchup Sunday night in Dallas.

First things first, Miami needs rest and to start figuring things out on defense.