Last Friday, I wrote a piece imploring Miami Heat fans not to panic despite the team losing four of their past five games. Since then, the Heat have won four of their last five games — but Miami blew a 10-point lead with 4:42 left at the Washington Wizards last night in a 103-100 loss.
All things considered, an 11-6 record to start a season that has featured lots of road games, several injuries and little rest is good. The Heat are just a game out of first place in the East following Saturday night’s loss. But the Heat also held a 106-97 lead over the Los Angeles Lakers with 4:45 left Nov. 10 before losing in overtime. Miami has often built breathing room only to see those leads dissipate in the fourth quarter.
This trend has occurred in both wins and losses. As I mentioned in my piece last Friday, the Heat nearly squandered a 19-point fourth-quarter lead in their home win over the Utah Jazz Nov. 6. When Miami (without Jimmy Butler) defeated the Jazz on the road a week later, the Heat held a 109-87 lead with 4:31 left in the game. Tyler Herro made two free throws for Miami’s next points — with 10 seconds left — to pull Miami to a 111-105 lead.
Fans can look at these games with glass-half-full or glass-half-empty perspectives. From an optimistic view, home teams have needed to mount valiant, late rallies to beat Miami. (The Heat still have have just one loss at FTX Arena.)
Bam was in foul trouble too, missed calls late and a few open threes go in and we are talking differently. They lost a close game on the road, this isnt a big deal https://t.co/jM8Y6ll2Hg— Kyle Lowry Lifer (@gnavas103) November 21, 2021
And that’s not even talking about the poor officiating late last night.
The pessimistic take holds that the Heat have had golden opportunities to win on the road and haven’t taken advantage, though. A month since opening night, Miami still has trouble shooting 3-pointers.
Fans have targeted Duncan Robinson with criticism, and he shot 1-for-5 from 3 last night before suffering a right knee contusion. But Kyle Lowry shot 1-for-7 from from 3 last night. He is shooting 30.9 percent from 3 this season. Robinson is at 33.1 percent. Both those numbers need to go up.
Remember when the 2010-11 Miami Heat couldn’t win close games? In March 2011, Tom Haberstroh wrote that, “the Heat’s abysmal close-game résumé is reaching historical depths.” Miami’s record in games decided by five or fewer points became a running jab pundits wielded to dismiss the Heat.
Even the 2019-20 Heat struggled to finish games. Feb. 20, 2020, the Heat held a 124-119 lead over the (lottery-bound) Atlanta Hawks with 1:51 left before Trae Young, on his way to dropping a 50-burger, led Atlanta back. Four nights later, the Heat (without Butler) blew a 19-point fourth-quarter lead to the (lottery-bound) Cleveland Cavaliers.
And two nights after that, Butler returned to face the (lottery-bound) Minnesota Timberwolves at home. He made a layup with 3:35 left to put the Heat up 123-112. But Minnesota stormed back and won 129-126.
Both the 2011 and 2020 Heat won close games in the playoffs to make it to the Finals. Miami inability to hold fourth-quarter leads in those regular-season games didn’t continue in the playoffs. (The Heat’s blown 15-point lead in Game 2 of the 2011 Finals notwithstanding.)
In short, this is concerning — not alarming.