It’s one step forward and two steps back with the Miami Heat this season as quality road wins over the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder get overshadowed by recent losses to the Chicago Bulls and now the New York Knicks in a nationally televised showdown on Sunday night. It’s part of a season-long trend where there are have been weeks of dominance followed by a shorter stretch of games that are primarily lost in crunch time. Looking closer, the Heat have at times shown their best and worst in the course of one game. After looking red hot in the first quarter, the Heat cooled off considerably against the Knicks for the remaining three quarters. Even more puzzling is the increasing fascination with the long jumper when they are blessed with two of the most explosive finishers in the league.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has stressed patience all season after losses to elite team or lesser teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and the Indiana Pacers. After their second consecutive loss to the Knicks, Spoelstra was blunt about how the team needed to improve. "We need to get better with our execution in these types of close games in the fourth quarter where it’s not open court and in transition."
In games that came down to 5 points or less, the Heat are now an unimpressive 5-11, which means all but six games were lost this season by a greater losing margin.
Spoelstra stressed that the team needed to make a change in their "ability to execute under duress with poise and patience.
"At times tonight it was very good," he continued. "So at times it was the best of all worlds and sometimes the worst of all worlds. When we didn’t turn the ball over, our execution actually was satisfactory and guys were involved in getting to second and third options and executing the details of it. But the turnovers killed us and simply crushed us in the fourth quarter."
Chris Bosh played a game high 41 minutes and had 20 points while adding 12 rebounds in a nice comeback performance after his miserable game against the Chicago Bulls. But after opening with a promising six points through the middle of the final quarter, Bosh failed to score in the final seven minutes. Worst of all he also made a costly turnover with a pass right to the hands of Knicks guard Chauncey Billups out in the perimeter when the Heat were down 85-84 with just 57 seconds left. After the hard loss, he didn’t give any excuses but denied there was much angst in the locker room.
"We don’t have guys that panic," he said. "That’s definitely not what we do. We turned the ball over, we didn’t have good shots at the rim and we didn’t have any opportunities at second chances. Those are important things in the last couple of minutes, especially in a game like this.
"We knew it was going to come down to the last couple of possessions and it’s going to be like that against all these good teams so we’re going to have to get better at that."