Miami Heat

Josh Richardson impacting Miami Heat’s defensive turnaround despite offensive struggles

Splitting its six-game road trip wasn’t the only silver lining the Miami Heat took from its loss in Detroit on Sunday.

Josh Richardson’s bounce back performance was an encouraging sight as the Heat hopes one of its best defenders regains his form on the offensive end.

Richardson finished with 15 points on 5 of 11 shooting and also had five rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block.

“I just told myself I was going to come out and be aggressive,” Richardson said Sunday.

Richardson has played a big role in the Heat’s recent defensive improvement going from a team rated 17th in the league in defensive rating (104.9) to 11th (102.6) over the past six games.

“I think our defense definitely ramped up a little bit,” Richardson said. “I don’t think we were guarding like we knew how to at first. I think Hassan [Whiteside] coming back had a lot to do with that.”

Richardson’s 1.5 steals per game are up from the 1.1 he averaged a year ago and he’s averaging 0.8 blocks per game which is tied for fourth in the league among 6-7 or shorter forwards.

Richardson has at least one steal in eight consecutive games, which is the sixth-longest active streak in the NBA entering Monday’s action.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra recently praised Richardson’s defense against Steph Curry and Klay Thompson during Miami’s game at Golden State a week ago.

But after averaging 14.3 points per game on 47.1 percent shooting over his first three games this season, Richardson has only reached double digits three times in the past 10 games.

Richardson is shooting only 39 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from three point range, both of which are under his career averages (41.1 FG and 36.5 percent from three).

“I’ve been passive a lot the last couple of games and not really attacking and playing like I know how to,” Richardson said. “I just told myself I was going to come out and make them guard me.”

Richardson, who is averaging 9.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, hasn’t been shy about his aspirations to be among the best defenders in the league at his position.

The Heat would certainly benefit going forward if Richardson can carry over Sunday’s performance as it returns home for Wednesday’s game against the Wizards, the first of back-to-back games against Washington.

“I think we made some big strides [on the road trip],” Richardson said. “Our intangibles got a lot better. I think our attitudes, we approached things we were very positive.”

ROSTER MOVE

The Heat sent guard Derrick Walton, Jr. back to Sioux Falls where he will rejoin the team’s G League squad, the Skyforce.

Walton, who joined the team during the road trip after Dion Waiters went home to be there for the birth of his daughter, made his NBA debut last during the Heat’s loss to the Golden State Warriors last Monday. Walton played the final minute and eight seconds of that game, collected a rebound, but did not take a shot.

Walton’s two-way contract allows him to spend a maximum of 45 days with the Heat this season. Walton was with the team for eight days during this trip.

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