The Miami Heat again were plagued with inconsistency and it came back to haunt them after mounting a late comeback that fell just short by a single point in a frustrating 95-94 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
After enjoying a spectacular first half in which the Heat tied a season high with 37 points on 79% shooting in the first quarter and 65% overall in the first half, the team again struggled in the second half. Poor shooting, lax defense at times, and a plethora of turnovers helped the Nuggets get right back into the game and grab their first lead of the night midway through the third quarter.
Miami only scored 18 points in the third quarter, but came alive late in the game to briefly reclaim the lead during crunch time. Mental mistakes and a failure to secure a defensive stop when needed to secure the win in their first road game of the season, James Johnson commits an unfortunate foul beyond the arc, allowing Paul Millsap to sink three free throws to take the one-point lead with less than 12 seconds remaining.
Despite it all, Dion Waiters almost won the game with a difficult shot that went in and then finally out of the rim as the game clock ended.
The Heat gave up 21 points on 22 turnovers, an unacceptable amount for a team that prides itself on preparing for games. Denver also had 25 free throw attempts compared to just 11 for Miami, as well as 16 second chance points compared to 3 for Miami.
Goran Dragic led the charge for the Heat with 18 points in the first half and 23 overall. In his second game after returning from injury and his third game of the season, Hassan Whiteside scored 13 points but only grabbed three rebounds. James Johnson had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
Ultimately, the duo of Millsap (27 points, 9 rebounds) and Nikola Jokic (19 points, 13 rebounds) punished the Heat in the paint and were the difference makers in the game, though it’s hard to shake off the impression that the Heat are their own worst enemy in their losses so far this season.
The Heat will try again when they take on the Los Angeles Clippers at 3:30 pm on Sunday.