With 4.9 seconds left, the Miami Heat put themselves in a good position to complete an improbable comeback in their season opener against the Orlando Magic. Down 101-90 with just under three minutes left, Miami roared back to come within 102-101. And Evan Fournier, who shot 87 percent from the foul line last year, had just missed two free throws.
But the Heat didn’t even get a shot attempt up on their next possession.
Josh Richardson stepped out of bounds after fumbling an in-bounds pass from Dwyane Wade, committing a costly turnover that cemented their loss Wednesday night in the opening game of their 31st season. Although that opportunity was Miami’s best chance to win the game, the Heat dug themselves a hole early in the fourth quarter.
Miami went into the fourth quarter down 79-78. Derrick Jones Jr. committed two fouls in the first minute-and-a-half of the period, after committing two fouls in the first 30 seconds of the third quarter. He fouled out with 10:32 left in the game, when James Johnson, Justise Winslow and Wayne Ellington were all injured.
And before long, Orlando had opened up a double-digit lead. Some of that blame goes to Wade, who fell asleep twice on defensive possessions that led to easy Magic buckets. (Wade also missed two floaters that he usually makes in the final 80 seconds of the game. He was a forgettable 3-for-13 from the field to start his final NBA season.)
But Miami had trouble scoring during that crucial fourth-quarter stretch. Erik Spoelstra probably should have put Goran Dragic back in the game earlier. Dragic, who was Miami’s best player Wednesday night, scored 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and 3-of-7 from downtown in 32 minutes.
In the end, a better-played fourth quarter would have resulted in Miami leading in the closing minutes of their season opener, not attempting to mount a furious rally.
On a positive note, Spoelstra played Bam Adebayo with Hassan Whiteside after Derrick Jones Jr. picked up his fourth foul. Miami went on a nice run with that lineup, with Adebayo scoring three field goals in that third quarter. Spoelstra may play both big men together in the future, especially if Winslow and Johnson miss more time.
Whiteside registered a double-double in the first game of the season, scoring 12 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the field and grabbing 18 rebounds in 33 minutes. A couple times, though, Whiteside missed easy shots against smaller defenders. Terrence Ross blocked Whiteside on consecutive layup attempts in one embarrassing moment for the Heat center.
One Heat frontcourt player who left a lot more to be desired — Kelly Olynyk. Spoelstra may not have played Adebayo with Whiteside if Olynyk hadn’t been such a complete no-show Wednesday night. Olynyk, who had such a good season last year with Miami, shot just 1-for-4 from the field and never made his presence felt. On a night the Heat’s frontcourt was so depleted, Olynyk needed to play better. His offensive skills could have given the Heat a bit more to work with.
The Heat will face the Washington Wizards Thursday at 8 p.m. on the second night of a back-to-back to open the season.