Early in the third quarter, the Miami Heat had a 16-point lead against the Portland Trail-Blazers, a team that came into Wednesday night’s game in Miami on a five-game losing streak. Wayne Ellington had made six 3-pointers in the first half, and the Heat appeared on their way to winning their third straight game.
After scoring 60 points in the first half, the Heat mustered just 35 points in the second half and lost a game they led most of the way, 102-95. The loss dropped Miami to 13-14 on the season, still suffering from extended offensive lulls that have squandered big leads all season long.
During a crucial stretch of the fourth quarter — from the 5:22 mark to the 2:46 mark — Miami missed four of six attempts from the foul line and ended the sequence in a tie game, 95-95. The Heat failed to score another point the rest of the way, unable to manufacture good looks at the basket in a close game. Dion Waiters tried (and failed) to play the hero. As a whole, Miami missed nine free throws on the night.
Now, the Heat did play the game with a depleted roster. Hassan Whiteside missed his seventh consecutive game Wednesday, and Tyler Johnson was a late scratch with a migraine. Justise Winslow only played eight first-half minutes before he collided knee-to-knee with Goran Dragic and never returned.
Erik Spoelstra had to play Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo together when James Johnson went to the bench in Winslow’s absence. The tandem worked well and may offer hope to more Heat fans that Spoelstra will play Adebayo with Whiteside if Adebayo develops a jump shot. But Winslow’s injury may lead the Heat to reconsider finding a replacement for Okaro White.
Even with the injuries, the Heat stood in control of this game most of the way. NBA teams are supposed to win home games in which they make 13 3-pointers. Although Damian Lillard made several nice drives to the basket late to push the Blazers on top, the Heat held him to nine points through three quarters. Put simply, the Heat gave this game away with poor play in the fourth quarter.
Ellington scored a team-high 24 points and made his first six attempts from downtown, five of which came in the first quarter. His sixth 3 inspired a priceless reaction from Udonis Haslem, who feigned fainting.
Ellington’s one 3-pointer in the fourth came at a crucial time, putting Miami up two after the Blazers gained the lead for the first time since the opening minute. Still, Spoelstra benched Ellington for crunch time, a curious decision since Dragic and Waiters shot a combined 10-for-30 from the field.
Wayne Ellington out here making Udonis Haslem faint pic.twitter.com/renkhQu4xy— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 14, 2017
James Johnson nearly got a triple-double, finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Johnson played a nice floor game finding teammates, but he needed to deliver more of an offensive punch on a night without Tyler Johnson and with Dragic and Waiters struggling. Johnson was a reliable fourth-quarter offensive playmaker for the Heat last season. Miami needs that player again.
The Heat will try to get back on track Friday at 7 p.m. against the Charlotte Hornets.