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Heat fall to Pelicans 109-94 in second game of a back-to-back set

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Miami’s defense fell apart against the Pelicans in a game reminiscent versus the Bulls.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Defense matters for the Miami Heat as they had only 3 blocked shots and 4 steals in its loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, 109-94, on Saturday night. So far this season the Heat, on average, allowed 102 points and the Pelicans 111 points. This game flipped those numbers around against Miami, and in New Orleans favor.

Goran Dragic unexpectantly started the game for Miami and James Johnson came off the bench to score a buzzer-beating basket to give the Heat a first quarter lead of 28-27. The game remained close until halftime with New Orleans leading 56-53.

Miami trailed after 4 12 minutes into the second half, 64-62, on a Tyler Johnson layup. The Pelicans went on a 17-2 run capped by an Anthony Davis basket to build a comfortable 17 point lead at 81-64. After that score the teams exchanged baskets, 28 points for the Pelicans and 30 points for the Heat to finish at the final score of 109-94.

At one point in the fourth quarter New Orleans lead by as many as 25 points to put the game effectively out-of-reach. Coach Erik Spoelstra finished out the non-contest with Udonis Haslem, Derrick Walton Jr., Matt Williams Jr., Jordan Mickey and Wayne Ellington on the court.

Miami regressed to an overall 42% shooting percentage and 31% of their 3-pointers as the easy baskets they found against the Dallas Mavericks last night were not there. On his return Dragic went 5 for 15 and 0 for 3 from beyond the arc. Uncharacteristically he dished out only two assists in 29 minutes on the floor.

Miami’s leader in assists was Bam Adebayo with 4. Between Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, Josh Richardson and Mickey, the forwards had 11 of the Heat’s 18 assists and corralled 25 of the 38 team’s rebounds.

Tyler Johnson lead the team in scoring with 20 points on 9 of 17 attempts, but didn’t have much help elsewhere, with Dragic and Wayne Ellington next in line at 13 points each, against a team that normally gives up 111 points a game. Actually the Heat attempted 12 more baskets, 85 to 73, than the Pelicans, but the 10 blocked shots at the basket helped keep Miami from scoring.

Defense was the difference in the game as the Heat allowed the Pelicans to shot 60% from 3-point range. Ian Clark went 5 of 7, and Darius Miller 3 of 5 from downtown. Overall the trio of Clark, Miller and Dante Cunningham outscored the Heat bench by 16 points when they were on the floor.

The Heat won 4 of their last six games, with the only two losses happening when they gave up 110 and 109 points. Defense does matter for the Miami Heat, because it leads to high-percentage baskets. With one game over the next five days, Heat fans are looking forward to the return of Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow by next weekend.

Until then have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday.