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Despite erasing 16-point deficit, Heat can't complete comeback in New Orleans

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On a night where the Heat seemed just a tad off, you can't really complain about a close, exciting ending.  Too many cold spells and defensive lapses proved to be too much as despite an exciting comeback, the Heat couldn't hang on in the final minutes and lost a tough road game to Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets

The Heat started a cold 0-for-4 in chilly New Orleans, finally getting on the board thanks to a Carlos Arroyo steal, drive and finish.   Still, the Hornets got out to a 10-4 lead.  A really nice pick-n-roll gave Jermaine O'Neal the opportunity for a big slam, and he did not disappoint.  A nice pass came from Carlos Arroyo, who was looking for a 6th win in his 7th straight start.

A D-Wade dunk would bring the Heat within 1, and it was the Heat's 6th straight bucket after missing their first 4.  Unfortunately, as quick as they got hot, they cooled right back off.  The Heat went the final 6:06 of the opening quarter without a field goal and ended up trailing by 6 heading into the 2nd

A really nice coast-to-coast play by Michael Beasley, coming away with a steal off a Marcus Thornton bad pass and taking it all the way to the rim.  It was pretty much all a Heat fan could get excited about because the Hornets pushed their lead to 11 half way through the quarter thanks to a 10-2 run. 

D-Wade was doing everything he could to keep Miami in the game, scoring 9 straight Heat points while his teammates shot 0-for-5, but they still couldn't get things together defensively and the New Orleans lead stayed in double digits.  After starting 0-for-5 from the field, Quentin Richardson hit back-to-back triples in the final couple minutes of the half, drawing the Heat within 8.

How the Heat stayed close in the 3rd quarter is beyond me.  Missed shots, turnovers, defensive breakdowns and 2nd chance opportunities were all problems for Miami, but the Hornets couldn't get over the hump.  Quentin Richardson hit a trey to bring the Heat within 7, and after getting a stop Miami had a chance get even closer. 

Instead, Chris Paul stole the ball from Udonis Haslem and completed a sick and-1 which led to a 9-2 Hornets run and a 12-point lead.  Chris Paul would put an exclamation point on a great 3rd quarter, hitting a 20-footer with 0.2 left, pushing the lead to 14 heading into the final period. 

4th quarter comebacks on the road are few and far between, and the way the Heat were playing last night it didn't seem like the kind of game you'd see a comeback.  But after going down by 16 just seconds into the quarter, Miami went on a 13-2 run to get back within 5.

It was very intriguing to see Mario Chalmers and Daequan Cook in the game with under 6 minutes left and the Heat trying to make a pretty difficult comeback.  A great defensive sequence ended with what could've been a back breaker for some teams when Chris Paul hit about a 30-foot prayer as the shot clock expired to pump the lead back up to 6. 

Miami would respond with some very good D and a 6-1 run to get all the way to within 1 point, still with 3 minutes left.  It then became a back and fourth between the Heat and Chris Paul.  The Hornets would finally blink when David West couldn't handle a CP3 pass, and Jermaine O'Neal hit the deck diving for the ball.  He came up with the timeout for Miami but also came up hobbling.  Regardless, J-O would stay in the game and Quentin Richardson got a tip-in off a Wade missed J to give the Heat the lead. 

David West came right back and hit a long J to put the Hornets back up by 1.  After a Daequan Cook miss from 3, David West would get fouled and hit a pair of free throws to put New Orleans up 3.  Udonis Haslem would get blocked on the other end and just like that the game was slipping away.  West hit a couple more foul shots and had single handedly taken the Heat's 1-point lead and turned it into a 5-point deficit. 

Of course it's never that easy.  Quentin Richardson hit a triple and got the Heat back within 2, then the Heat put Devin Brown on the foul line with 7.6 left.  Brown hit both and Daequan missed another trey and that was that.  It was a very nice comeback but Miami couldn't deliver in the final minute and the Hornets held on by hitting all their free throws, going 6-for-6 in the final 40 seconds. 

GAME NOTES

  • The Heat's 40 1st half points was the 2nd lowest total for a half this season.  The lowest came against Utah last week when the Heat led 36-30 at halftime.
  • Opening the 4th quarter scoring for the Heat was none other then Daequan Cook (remember him?), hitting his first 3-pointer since December 15th (6 games). 
  • Carlos Arroyo had 9 3rd quarter points, his highest total for a quarter this season.  He finished with 11 points, his 4th game with double figure scoring. 
  • The 1st half wasn't good for Heat point guards.  They combined for 4 points on just 2-of-6 shooting to go along with 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 21 minutes. 
  • Dorell Wright played just 9 minutes, the fewest since the Heat played at Portland on December 1st
  • D-Wade scored just 8 points in the 2nd half, all coming in the 4th quarter but none coming in the final 3 minutes. 
  • Udonis Haslem scored 8 of his 10 points in the 4th quarter.  He also grabbed 9 boards in his 30 minutes. 
  • All 5 Heat starters scored in double figures. 

No time to dwell on this one, as a short plane ride will take the Heat form New Orleans to San Antonio for their New Years Eve battle with the Spurs.  National Television for Miami as TNT will pick up the game.  Tipoff is at 7pm.