The Miami Heat lost to their second sub .500 team in five games Wednesday night, falling to the Milwaukee Bucks 90-85 at home. The Bucks playing their first game in a spoiler role, as they were eliminated from the postseason during the game by an Indianapolis win.
John Salmons scored a team high 17 points for the Milwaukee before an injury removed him from the game. He was aided by 14 point efforts from both Corey Maggette and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
The Heat quickly fell behind 25-15 after a sloppy first quarter filled with seven turnovers and only 37% shooting from the field. Playing without Dwyane Wade, who missed the game with a thigh injury, the offense struggled mightily to produce.
The Heat were able to close the gap in the second quarter without LeBron James on the floor with a strong effort from Joel Anthony, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, James Jones and Chris Bosh. Their best shooting quarter of the night drew the Heat within five points at halftime.
LeBron James exploded for 12 of his game high 29 points in the third quarter, tying the game twice on long three-point jumpers. However, after building an early lead in the fourth quarter, the Heat and James struggled down the stretch.
Trailing 83-82 with 59 seconds left, James missed a game-tying free throw. Joel Anthony was able to secure the rebound, but the possession ended in an offensive foul by Mike Bibby. The ensuing Bucks possession resulted in a Carlos Delfino three, effectively ending any chance the Heat had at winning the game.
The game was extremely sloppy for the Heat, who had been operating at a high level offensively recently. Undoubtedly, Wade’s absence had a large effect. James Jones was ineffective as the starter, shooting 1-5 on the night.
One has to wonder if the Heat slipped into a similar trap that the Celtics and Lakers have fallen into. All three teams have now lost multiple games to non-contenders in the past few weeks. Complacency is settling in, and focus has drifted towards the playoffs.
Not much good came from the game except for strong efforts by Mike Miller and Joel Anthony. Chris Bosh seemed hesitant to attack the undersized Mbah a Moute all night, choosing to settle for jumpers all night. The Heat shot terribly inside the paint all night, a result of Milwaukee’s strong defense and poor finishes (looking at you Erick Dampier).
The Heat really seemed to struggle in crunch time without Wade. The Heat have been successful in running the pick and roll with Wade and James recently, and without Wade the Heat couldn’t find a suitable replacement. They rarely used a James-Bosh action because their defenders were similar in size and no mismatches were created. Instead, the Heat ran James off of Joel Anthony picks, but those were futile as Andrew Bogut just sagged in the paint daring LeBron to shoot.
Ultimately, the game may not hurt the Heat in playoff seeding as the Celtics still have difficult remaining games, including tonight at Chicago. The Heat need to win all four remaining games, including against one against the Celtics, and have a second Celtics loss mixed in to grab the second seed. Looking ahead, the Heat need another Lakers loss to catch them in the standings, and thus securing home-court advantage in a possible Finals scenario.
Finally, this is what you get when the playoffs, long off in the distance all season, are so close. The Heat lacked intensity from the start and it cost them. Next up the Charlotte Bobcats come to town on Friday in a game the Heat need to win.
If anyone can figure out why Corey Maggette was wearing an Ugg boot last night, leave a comment below.
I can be found on twitter @DannyMartinez4