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Heat aren't the only NBA elite team squandering late leads

Guest writer Danny Martinez gives his take on last night's loss to the Orlando Magic and their current mini losing streak. Follow Danny on Twitter @DannyMartinez4

How did we not see this coming? The players saw it coming. The players tried to stop it. They players couldn’t stop it. No, I’m not referring to last night’s loss to the Orlando Magic, which was less than ideal. I’m referring to the three-game losing streak that leads to the Miami Heat being written off. Before the season started Dwyane Wade offered this prophetic quote:

"There’s going to be times when we lose 2-3 games in a row, and it seems like the world has crashed down."

Well friends, here we are. The Heat have lost three straight games against big name opponents (I don’t say Eastern Conference powers because the Knicks are not one). In all three games the Heat led in the fourth quarter, yet all three featured a series of missed shots and costly turnovers (hello Eddie House and Mike Miller) that resulted in the lead being squandered. The Heat have now been labeled "soft," "chokers" and apparently are "still searching for a closer." I ask that you take a deep breath and relax for a second.

The Heat have now lost five games this season in which they led going into the fourth quarter. It FEELS like it’s been more than that, but it hasn’t. It FEELS like it’s a very high number, but it isn’t. The Boston Celtics have lost four games in which they’ve led after three quarters. The Lakers, Bulls and Magic have three such losses. Last season the Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics had eight losses after leading through three quarters. Blowing leads is never fun, but it is part of the game (unless you’re San Antonio who has yet to lose while leading after three quarters).

Quarters are arbitrary endpoints in a 48-minute game that were created to give players a time to rest. More significance is placed on the fourth quarter because it is the final one. Whether this is fair or not can be debated. What cannot be debated is the Heat have hit a rough patch, they’ve lost three straight games, two of which they led after three quarters. But the Heat just hit the 61-game mark of an 82 game season in which they’re in the top two of every team measuring ranking (2nd in John Hollinger’s power rankings, 1st in Basketball Reference’s SRS and Expected Won/Loss Record and 1st in Hoop Data’s Efficiency difference).

Dwyane was right, it does seem like "the world has crashed down," but maybe he’s also right when he said "it’s not going to be nothing but a couple of basketball games." A three-game stretch does not a season make. Let’s let this string of high profile games play out. Maybe the ship will be righted and maybe it won’t, but we'll just have to wait and see.