Coming off a franchise-record 61-point performance, LeBron James had the ball in his hands with 13 ticks left and his team down by three. Just a couple weeks before, James nailed a 3-pointer in Andre Igoudala's face to seal a big road win over the Warriors. But Tuesday night, James had not even scored in the entire fourth quarter. He attempted a 3 over former Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard with less than a second left, but came up short.
The Heat lost, 106-103, and couldn't extend their eight-game winning streak. Moreover, Miami squandered an opportunity to move within a game of the top seed in the East and couldn't take advantage of the Indiana Pacers' loss to Golden State Tuesday.
Tonight, James reminded everyone that he's human. He scored just three points in the second half and never really got into the sort of rhythm that he finds in nearly every game. Despite his struggles -- including missing all three of his 3-point attempts, including the last-second shot -- James finished with 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting, six assists and three steals. It's a great night for the vast majority of NBA players, but not enough for a team that needed to make a rally in the fourth quarter. In fact, Miami played so well at the beginning of the fourth quarter without James that Erik Spoelstra didn't put him back in until the 5:59 mark.
On the second night of a back-to-back, Miami started the game lackadaisically and ended up playing catch-up from the start. Houston scored 26 points in the first seven minutes of the contest. The Heat caught up in the first half, but Houston responded and extended the lead in the third quarter. Falling behind early certainly doesn't translate into a surefire loss, but it leaves a beleaguered team constantly playing from behind.
Michael Beasley undoubtedly stood as the team's biggest bright spot on an uneven night on the whole. He scored 24 points off the bench and earned his crunch-time minutes. Miami faced a 13-point deficit just 49 seconds into the fourth, and Beasley made three 3s to bring the Heat back into the game. Beasley's last 3 with 21 seconds remaining closed the deficit to three, giving James that final chance. Miami did not have a player like Beasley last season -- a dynamic scorer who can compensate for a member of the Big Three. The Heat likely would not have stood a chance without Beasley.
James wasn't the only member of the Big Three who left much to be desired. Chris Bosh shot just 1-for-5 from the field to finish with five points and five boards. Greg Oden was on the inactive list, and could not match up against Howard tonight.
Against James Harden, Dwyane Wade didn't disappoint, though. He came off a one-game absence to score 24 points on a solid 8-of-15 shooting from the field. Like his performance against the Thunder recently, Wade attacked with his post-game and ball-fakes. He held his own against Harden, but Miami needed a little more from James and especially Bosh to beat a very good West team on the road.
The Heat will visit the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night at 8 p.m. on TNT.