The Miami Heat had a golden opportunity to grab a crucial road win against the Indiana Pacers despite several factors weighing against them but were eventually undone late in the game for a 102-98 loss on Sunday night.
Not only were the Heat playing on the second night of a back-to-back set on the road in a city they traditionally struggle in, they were playing without starting point guard Goran Dragic, had to overcome the loss of an hour due to Daylight Savings Time and an 8pm tipoff start last night with an early 6pm tipoff time today. In fact, the team didn’t even check into their hotel until 5am after taking off from Miami after midnight. Despite this, they briefly held the lead at 94-93 with just a few minutes left in the game but couldn’t withstand Myles Turner and the Pacers to close the game out.
Though the team refused to give excuses before the game, it was clear that their tired legs were at least partly to blame for their shooting struggles — particularly from long range. Only Wayne Ellington was a threat from deep, going 5-11, but the rest of the team finished 4-21 (28.1%).
Miami hung tough throughout the game and fought back several times when they could have given up and stopped playing with their trademark intensity. Dion Waiters kept the Heat afloat early, accounting for eight of the team’s first 10 points, but the Pacers would go on an 11-0 run to go ahead as part of a 20-6 run to finish the first quarter and build a 10-point lead.
The Heat fought back with a 9-0 run soon afterwards and would go on to even the game at 48-48 with a little over two minutes left in the first half. Thanks to the efforts of Paul George with a team-leading 28 points in a triple-double effort with 10 rebounds and 10 assists, Indiana would maintain their lead throughout the third quarter.
Despite all this, the Heat kept battling back with their usual team-first attitude with Hassan Whiteside, who finished with 26 points and 21 rebounds (tying his career high with 10 offensive rebounds), saving his best for last while James Johnson and Wayne Ellington (19 points) kept knocking down timely shots. They made six straight shots after starting the fourth quarter cold to close within two points with five minutes left in the game. After JJ knocked down a 3-pointer using the glass, Ellington followed with his own 3 to give the team a 94-93 lead.
That’s when Indiana closed the game out with a 9-4 run to win it. Before that, Jeff Teague made a huge block on Whiteside and Myles Turner (15 points, 8 rebounds) sealed the win for the Pacers inside the paint and at the free throw line.
The loss drops the Heat to one game behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the eight spot and a game and a half behind the Detroit Pistons.