With three minutes and 38 seconds left to go in the Miami Heat’s game at the Philadelphia 76ers Monday night, two Goran Dragic free throws tied the game at 91-91.
The Heat wouldn’t score again until the closing seconds of the game. The Sixers, meanwhile, scored 10 points.
The Sixers took advantage of several Heat miscues down the stretch to defeat Miami 101-94 and send the Heat to a dismal 4-9 record.
Right after Dragic’s two free throws, Hassan Whiteside committed his fifth personal foul. Erik Spoelstra opted to substitute in Udonis Haslem for Whiteside, and Miami fell apart. Goran Dragic couldn’t run a basic pick-and-roll with Haslem on the other side of the floor, and he lost the ball. Robert Covington then hit a 3-point shot for the Sixers. Dion Waiters missed a layup on the Heat’s ensuing possession despite yelling out “and-one!”, previewing the Heat’s abysmal late fourth-quarter offense.
Spoelstra’s decision to pull Whiteside from the game was wrong — flat out. In many ways, Whiteside was the only player to show up Monday night. He finished the night with a career-high 32 points on 13-of-19 shooting from the field, 13 rebounds and two blocks. For two straight possessions in the third quarter, Dragic penetrated into the lane before giving a nice hand-off pass to Whiteside. The Heat center then made the layup despite getting fouled. He even hit both free throws. (On Miami’s next possession, Waiters pulled up for a fall-away mid-range jumper. Clank.)
On a night when the Heat shot 39 percent from the field as a team, Miami needed Whiteside in the game. If he picks up his sixth foul before the end of the game, so be it — there were only three minutes left in a close game on the road, and Whiteside was the Heat’s best player that night.
Willie Reed, Whiteside’s usual backup, was out Monday night with a hyperextended right knee. Spoelstra first went to Josh McRoberts as the Heat’s backup center, but he put up two air-balls in the fourth quarter. It seems weird to say, but the Heat are counting on a player with all the experience of 49 total NBA games for quality backup center minutes.
In fact, another Miami player courted Heat records for futility Monday night. Josh Richardson, who again started in place of Justise Winslow tonight, was 0-for-10 from the field before hitting a 3 with 1.6 seconds left.
Worst shooting games, Heat history:— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) November 22, 2016
Jamal Mashburn, 0-10, 3/9/97
Antoine Walker, 0-10, 12/5/05
Josh Richardson, 0-10, so far tonight
I was glad Richardson hit the shot, if only because he is one of my favorite Heat players, and Antoine Walker is one of my least favorite. But the Heat need to shoot better than 7-for-31 from beyond the arc (Richardson was 1-for-8) in today’s NBA. Whiteside gave the Heat a lot, but he needed a little more than a combined 10-for-38 shooting from Dragic and Waiters. Tyler Johnson was 1-for-7 from the field. In the post-Dwyane Wade era, these are the players who need to consistently provide an offensive punch.
The Heat will visit the Detroit Pistons Wednesday at 7:30 and try to get back on track.