Midway through the fourth quarter, the Miami Heat looked good. Miami had come back from 17 down to take a three-point lead against the Memphis Grizzlies. Jimmy Butler made three straight baskets to pull Miami within four, and Derrick Jones Jr. came up with back-to-back steals to give the Heat their first lead of the night.
But then, the Heat couldn’t score. After going on a 14-0 run to take the lead, the Grizzlies responded with a 11-0 run. By the time Miami stopped the bleeding on a Butler free throw, the Heat were down 115-108 with just 2:05 left. The Grizzlies led on to win 118-111.
Miami suffered just their second loss to a sub-.500 team all season; the first one came in the Heat’s third game of the season at the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Memphis took apart a lackadaisical Heat defense from the jump, scoring 12 first-half 3-pointers to score a season-high 73 points by halftime. Memphis also dominated Miami in the paint, getting Jonas Valanciunas in pick-and-rolls for easy baskets.
Partly as a result of foul trouble to Bam Adebayo and Jones Jr., the Heat used a zone defense for much of the second half. And it mostly worked, with the lengthy Butler and Jones Jr. forming the top line of defense of the 2-3 zone. The downside for the zone were a number of crucial offensive rebounds for Memphis, including a series of opportunities for the Grizzlies that led to a Jaren Jackson Jr. 3-pointer to put the Grizzlies up four points.
Butler led Miami with 25 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field and 12-for-14 from the foul line. Tyler Herro was first behind him with 22 points on 7-of-20 shooting and a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line. He made some nice drives to the basket for floaters, showing that he’s more than a 3-point shooter.
But the Heat players made numerous mistakes, especially down the stretch. On one crucial offensive possession with the Heat down one, Miami didn’t initiate anything with Butler. Instead, Herro attempted an errant driving layup. On another one, the Heat again didn’t find Butler. Adebayo had the ball in the high post with a short shot clock, and he committed a traveling violation attempting to drive to the basket.
Herro and Kendrick Nunn each committed a double-dribble violation bringing the ball up-court in the first half, more examples of careless turnovers. Nunn scored 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting on the night, including a series of baskets to open the third quarter.
But tonight marked another night Miami missed Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow. Dragic offers some offensive dynamism for the Heat, and Winslow provides the type of defense that would have prevented some easy Memphis baskets.
Things don’t get easier for the Heat, as Miami faces the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday to close out their three-game road trip.