Stop me if this sounds familiar...
The Heat, injury-depleted and shuffling their player rotations yet again, allows an opponent to shoot a high field-goal percentage, yields a double-digit lead and then spends the rest of the game trying to catch up only to fall short as time winds down.
Copy-and-paste from previous recaps.
This has been the unfortunate theme for much of the season and it was on display yet again as Miami lost to Utah, 102-87, dropping their seventh game in the last eight contests at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra went with his 11th different starting lineup this season, as Chris Andersen made his first start as a member of the Heat. The move was presumably made to challenge Utah's long frontcourt (featuring Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter). Unfortunately, the Jazz were largely unstoppable from the perimeter. Utah led by as many as 17 points in the first quarter, with Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood, and Dante Exum all connecting from 3-point range.
Utah would shoot 55.9 percent in the first two quarters and connected on 8-of-11 shots from beyond the arc, and Miami went into the half down, 55-41. The deficit could have been much larger if not for two factors: Dwyane Wade's 23 points and a ridiculous free throw disparity, as the Heat shot 24 times from the charity stripe compared to just nine attempts for the Jazz. Still, Miami only connected on 15 free throw attempts and shot just 40.6 percent from the field.
Spoelstra would change the lineup yet again to start the third quarter, inserting Shawne Williams in place of the ineffective Justin Hamilton at power forward. The move seemed to pay off immediately, as Williams connected on a 3-pointer and the team played with more energy on defense. A Wade free throw cut the lead to seven and the AAA crowd roared in anticipation of a comeback.
It just wasn't meant to be.
Kanter would score seven straight points and an Exum 3-pointer soon pushed the Utah lead back up to 15.
Wade would lead one last inspired charge for Miami, scoring 10 consecutive points and cutting the Jazz lead to 11 but he simply had no help from his teammates. Mario Chalmers was the only other Heat player to score in double digits (11 points), while Luol Deng (8 points), Norris Cole (2 points) and Hamilton would combine for 11 points on just 4-of-11 shooting.
Conversely, the Jazz had five players in double figures, led by Hayward's 29 points and Kanter's 18 points, Utah reserve Rudy Gobert, the 7-footer from France, chipped in 6 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks. His length made it impossible for Miami to score at the rim.
One can rationalize the Heat's sloppy showing (38.6 field-goal percentage - including 4-of-13 from long-range) due to fatigue after a victory in Brooklyn last night but the Jazz had played on Tuesday as well. The reality is that, with the continued absence of Chris Bosh, Miami is a very vulnerable team that needs a number of players to produce at a high level. It's easy to focus on Deng as the Heat's most inconsistent player, especially following and 18-point performance against the Nets. But everyone other than Wade struggled, both on offense and defense, and this team is simply not talented enough to coast against opponents, even mediocre teams like the Jazz.
When the Heat (now at 12-14) play as poorly as they did on Wednesday night, even bad teams can look like title contenders.
Miami is off until Friday, when they face the Washington Wizards, the top team in the Southeast Division and second in the Eastern Conference.