When the Miami Heat traded for Dwyane Wade last week, some mentioned that Wade could serve as a player who could create his own shot in the final moments of the game. The Heat were on a five-game winning streak, and the return of the franchise’s best player brought some life into the organization and fanbase.
After a win against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Heat go into the All-Star break now having lost seven of their last eight games and at a 31-27 record. And oh yeah, they just blew a 24-point third-quarter lead to the Philadelphia 76ers and lost, 104-102.
And Wade took two shots in the final minute of the game, coming up short both times. The first one came after Wade stole the ball from Ben Simmons and the Sixers up 100-99. After little movement offensively, Wade took a step-back corner 3 with the shot clock winding down. It missed.
Then, the Heat had one last chance to tie or win the game with 3.3 seconds left. Wade caught the ball from Goran Dragic, who in-bounded the ball. Wade momentarily lost his balance, but still got a good look at a potential game-winning 3. He missed again, and the Heat fell to 0-2 in their season series against the Sixers, a team Miami will fight for playoff positioning the rest of the way.
But it shouldn’t have come down to those last-minute Wade heroics. The Heat had a 24-point lead with 9:11 left in the third quarter, and the Sixers didn’t have Joel Embiid playing. But Philly cut the lead to eight by the end of the third quarter, dominating the Heat on the glass and getting hot from 3 after a cold-shooting first half. The Sixers out-rebounded the Heat 60-29. 60-29. And did I mention Embiid wasn’t playing?
Even during Miami’s good first half, the rebounding issues were concerning. But the problem magnified once the Sixers shot better in the second half. Philadelphia even rebounded three separate missed offensive free-throws in the second half. How do the Heat let that happen?
It was also perplexing to see James Johnson on the bench in the final six minutes of the game. Throughout Wednesday’s game, Johnson was the motor keeping the Heat going. He scored 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field, including a perfect 2-for-2 from downtown. For Heat fans who have been underwhelmed by Johnson’s performance this season — I count myself among that group — seeing that aggression from last season was heartening.
Even in Miami’s disastrous third quarter, Johnson was the player who settled Miami’s offensive after checking into the game and kept the Heat treading water for a few minutes. Why Erik Spoelstra felt it was necessary to play Luke Babbitt in the final six minutes of the game but not James Johnson is beyond me. Though he made two 3s, Babbitt committed a terrible turnover that led to a Sixers fast-break and was a -9 in his eight minutes.
The Heat also missed eight free throws, but the main message is they gave this game away to the Sixers. Heading into the All-Star break and hoping to make a playoff push, this loss may come back to bite.