The Miami Heat lost their second straight game, both at the AmericanAirlines Arena, in an entertaining comeback fueled by Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic that ultimately fell short in a spirited 106-99 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.
Kawhi Leonard, who was relatively quiet for the first three quarters, exploded for 14 of his 27 total points in the final six minutes of the game to help stave off a wild finish by the Heat.
Whiteside had a difficult time covering Pau Gasol around the court, but more than made up for on the offensive end by tying his career-high with 27 points to go along with 15 rebounds. Dragic picked up the pace in the second half and was relentless in attack, going for 25 points. Justise Winslow had a huge game with 18 points, practically growing up before our eyes as he went toe-to-toe with Leonard on both ends of the floor and found his shooting touch in crunch time with confidence. He opened the game with five straight missed shots before making his next seven and showing increased confidence penetrating to the basket.
This looked like it was going to be a long night for Miami when they quickly faced an early deficit playing much like they did in their worst moments against the Charlotte Hornets in their home opener. The Spurs rested All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge but it hardly seemed to matter as they proceeded to make quick work of the Heat’s defense with their crisp passing and dynamic attack.
But Miami gradually improved in the second quarter and were able to cut the Spurs lead down to single digits by halftime and proceeded to play better than their former NBA Finals rival in the third quarter and briefly retook the lead, their first since the opening moments of the game, in the final quarter.
That’s when Leonard showed why he is one of the best in the league by putting his impressive game on full display. When he wasn’t draining shots he was attacking the rim and either finishing or getting a trip to the charity stripe to lead the way and keep the Spurs unbeaten at 4-0.
For Miami, a loss in a hard-fought game is still a loss, but it proved that if they can play like they did in the second half then they are more than capable of racking up wins against many teams in the league. Whiteside would have likely surpassed his career high in points in a monster performance were it not for a cramp in the fourth quarter that sent him to the bench for several minutes. Thankfully it wasn’t anything major and he returned to play the final minutes of the game.
The Heat will try to finish their mini home stand on a high note when they host the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday and their first win of the season at AmericanAirlines Arena.