In their 2017 home finale the Miami Heat left the building with 5:27 left in first period and a 18-8 lead against the Brooklyn Nets. At that point Brooklyn took control of American Airlines Arena until they ran the lead up to 93-55 against the hapless Heat with 1:11 remaining in the third quarter, when the Nets showed some mercy to the home crowd.
Miami started out strong with an 8-0 lead on 3 baskets by Hassan Whiteside and a bucket by Josh Richardson. The lead went up to 18-8 at one point. Then Richardson was subbed out and Whiteside left the court with the Heat leading 18-12. With two of the defensive stalwarts off the court the Nets seized control of the game.
As the Nets wrote in their game preview, they attacked Tyler Johnson, along with his backcourt partners Goran Dragic and Wayne Ellington throughout the game to the tune of a plus/minus deficit -29, -30, -26 respectively for the trio.
Trailing by 24-20 after the first quarter, the Heat allowed 35 points in the second quarter and 36 in the third to trail 95-60 going into the fourth. Miami’s rotation players made a total of one 3-point basket in the entire game by Tyler Johnson. Derrick Walton Jr. and Udonis Haslem were responsible for two of three 3-pointers by the Heat.
While Richardson and Whiteside finished the game making 13 of their 23 attempts, Kelly Olynyk, Dragic and Tyler Johnson missed missed 25 out of their 34 shots, and had 8 assists, 5 by Dragic, between them. The bench didn’t come to the rescue with a 9 of 32 performance from the field and a total of 2 assists.
The Heat had 11 turnovers to the Nets 18 turnovers, but that was caused by Miami not passing the ball. The Nets had 25 assists to Miami’s total of 12. The sum of assists plus turnovers, 43 for Nets versus 23 for Miami, indicated Miami was forced into hero-ball most of game by Brooklyn not allowing entry passes. The score would have been worse without the 24 points Miami made from the free throw line.
This was the fifth time this season the Heat trailed in games by 30 points or more. While issues seemed resolved during the last 10 games, the lack of bench depth finally came back to haunt Miami in this game. Without James Johnson, Justise Winslow, Rodney McGruder, and company, the lack of quality defenders finally took its toll.
Despite their best efforts Tyler Johnson and Dragic couldn’t handle the speed, strength and quickness of Brooklyn’s young core when they were in full attack mode. This game exposed a bench weak on backcourt defense and the absence of two-way ballhandlers such as James Johnson and Winslow.