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Heat comeback attempt against Hawks falls short

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Josh Richardson missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Think a home game against the NBA’s worst team was just what the Miami Heat needed to turn the season around? Think again.

The Heat fell down by as many as 19 points in the third quarter against the Atlanta Hawks, who came into the game with a 4-16 record. But Miami came all the way back in the fourth quarter, even briefly taking the lead. And in the final seconds, Josh Richardson had a wide-open look for a 3-pointer to win the game.

Richardson’s shot missed, sending the Heat to their sixth straight home loss and a dismal 7-13 record overall. The Heat have now lost twice to the league’s worst team.

Aside from the potential game-winning shot from Richardson, Miami had several chances to win this game. And this all occurred after a 33-14 second-quarter shellacking that gave Miami a tall order in the second half. Richardson converted on a four-point play with 8:38 left to go to cut Atlanta’s lead to nine points.

About a minute-and-a-half later, Wayne Ellington made a 3-pointer of his own to cut the deficit to three. Miami took the lead with 5:04 left to go on a layup from Richardson, but the Hawks went on a 9-0 run to regain control of the game. It wasn’t until a Kelly Olynyk 3-pointer with 58 seconds left that Miami scored again. Yup, you read that correctly — from the 5:04 mark to the 58-second mark, the Heat couldn’t score. That was when Miami truly lost this game, not with Richardson’s missed 3.

Miami has plenty of culprits. Justise Winslow turned the ball over six times Tuesday night, operating out-of-control on several possessions. Even through his mishaps, Erik Spoelstra stuck with Winslow in his fourth-quarter lineup over James Johnson, who started but played just 18 minutes. To be fair, Johnson hasn’t exactly offered great offensive production since he returned from injury earlier this month.

The Heat also missed 10 free throws Tuesday, with Hassan Whiteside going 1-for-7 from the foul line. Like Johnson, Erik Spoelstra also benched Whiteside in the fourth quarter, preferring to play Olynyk or Bam Adebayo at center.

Richardson led Miami with 22 points, but he shot 2-of-8 from beyond the arc (including, of course, missing the potential game-winner). Wade added 18 points off the bench on 6-of-11 shooting from the field. The 2006 NBA Finals MVP even flipped in this trick shot that was a bit reminiscent of his earlier playing days.

Ellington contributed 15 points on five 3-pointers for the Heat. With the injuries to Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson, Ellington has proven his value as a 3-point threat to this team. Before Miami had those backcourt injury issues, Ellington was outside the rotation.

Now, here the Heat are, having gone winless during their “Vice Nights” campaign and plummeting in the standings. Fans are looking towards a year of tanking to secure a top draft pick. Will the Heat turn this around? Miami will next face the New Orleans Pelicans Friday night at 8 p.m.