The Miami Heat again lost a game to a NBA team with the worst record in the NBA. This time a 89-88 loss versus the Sacramento Kings, on put-back dunk by De’Aaron Fox as both Bam Adebayo and James Johnson stood flat footed at the rim watching the ball.
Miami scored 17 points in the first quarter, 30 in the second, 25 in the third, and 16 the last quarter. The Heat lead 72-71 entering the last quarter and quickly ran their lead up to 83-71 on a 11-0 start to the quarter.
After Josh Richardson made a technical free throw to give Miami a comfortable 84-72 lead with 6:33 remaining, the Heat would make only one more field goal, a jumper by Hassan Whiteside, and two-free throws by Goran Dragic with 1:19 left, for the rest of the game. Part of the final quarter’s meltdown came from three unecessary shot clock turnovers, as the offense couldn’t get organized.
A key to the loss came taking ill-advised shot attempts: the Heat made only 31 field goals to the Kings 38. Those 7 more baskets (14 points) Sacramento made from the floor were too much to overcome by Miami’s 12 3-point baskets or 14 free throws. The inability to make their own shots by the Heat’s ball-handlers, other than Dragic, exposed the Heat’s need for a go-to scorer on a consistent basis.
Dragic lead the Heat with 23 points, followed by Wayne Ellington’s 20 points off the bench. Whiteside almost had a double-double with 13 rebounds and 8 points for the evening. Buddy Hield lead all scorers with 24 points.
The misfiring by the Heat was a group effort as outside of Dragic and Ellington, who went 15 of 30 and 9 of 18 from 3-point range, the rest of the team went 16-52 (31%) and 3-16 (19%) respectively. Once the threat of 3-point scoring is gone, Sacramento just waited for Miami to dribble away the time for empty possessions inside the arc.
The starters were so bad that at one point Erik Spoelstra benched 4 of them for lack of effort. The starters not named Dragic didn’t make a single 3-point basket during the entire game, against one of the worst teams in the NBA. The Kings starters, featuring 3 rookies, outscored the Heat starters 52-41, which gives the reason why the Heat don’t have a player in the All-Star game.
One bright spot was the inspired play by Justise Winslow who owns the corner three-point spots, making 6-8 (75%) since his return from injury. He can’t finish in paint or mid-range (2-15), but he may be Miami’s Luke Babbitt from the corners this season.
Winslow’s hard work on perfecting his corner three’s is paying off, and could be the floor spacer Miami needs. In the last 4 games starters Johnson and Richardson have passed up numerous opportunities for corner 3’s: a total of 0 makes on 5 attempts, or no points on an average of about 1 shot per game. When teams know JJ and JR will pass up open 3-pointers, it makes all five Heat players, who are trying to score, lives difficult: JJ and JR are letting their teammates down.
In the Sacramento game, starters other than Dragic going 0-7 on 3-point shots made packing the paint easy against the Heat, and lead to this inexcusable loss. The return of Tyler Johnson and use of Winslow’s spot-up success from corners could spread the floor. Otherwise teams will continue to collapse their defenses into the painted area against the Heat, and make Miami’s offense offensive.