The Heat were in good position to win a road game on the second night of a back-to-back.
But Miami (10-21) let that opportunity and an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter slip away, as the Pelicans rallied to defeat the Heat 91-87 on Friday at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.
“It got really stagnant,” coach Erik Spoelstra said to reporters in New Orleans of the Heat’s late-game offense. “We were moving the ball really well in the first half and even parts of the third quarter. At the end of the third and most of the fourth, it seemed like it was zero pass, one pass options. That just allowed the momentum to slowly shift.”
Anthony Davis led the Pelicans’ comeback effort with 28 points, 22 rebounds and four blocks.
The Heat led by as much as 14 points in the second half. Goran Dragic led Miami with a team-high 23 points and five assists, as no other Heat player scored more than 12 points.
Miami will have a few days off to recover from the loss before hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday.
1. Bad finish: After using an impressive fourth quarter performance to defeat the Lakers on Thursday, the Heat crumbled late in Friday’s game. With a closing lineup of Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragic, the Heat struggled to score. Miami led by eight with 7:17 remaining in the game, but the Pelicans used a 12-0 run to take the lead and never trailed again. After the Heat made 43.1 percent of their shots over the first three quarters, they shot 36.4 percent in the fourth quarter. That proved to be too much to overcome, as New Orleans outscored Miami 27-19 in the final period.
“We didn’t close out the way we need to,” Spoelstra said. “It really started with our offense. Our offense really got stagnant. There were some tough ugly possessions that allowed them to get some relief baskets and get a little bit closer.”
2. Anthony Davis vs. Hassan Whiteside: Pelicans center Anthony Davis won the matchup and the game. Davis finished with a game-high 28 points, 22 rebounds and four blocks. And Davis played well when it counted, recording four points and eight rebounds in the fourth quarter. Hear center Hassan Whiteside didn’t play bad, but he just wasn’t as good as Davis on Friday. Whiteside finished with 10 points on 10 shots, 18 rebounds and two blocks. Goran Dragic (17), Justise Winslow (16), Tyler Johnson (13) and James Johnson (12) took more shots than Whiteside in the loss.
3. Good Heat defense traveled to New Orleans: Over the past few weeks, the Heat’s defense has been inconsistent. So inconsistent that Miami has dropped in the NBA rankings from No. 3 to No. 13 in defensive rating over the past 20 games. But despite the loss, the Heat brought their good defense to New Orleans on Friday. Miami limited New Orleans to 37.1 percent shooting for the game. Take away Anthony Davis and the rest of the Pelicans made 31.9 percent of their shots. Even with this quality defensive performance, the Heat’s late-game struggles proved to be costly.
4. Maybe the Heat shouldn’t trade Goran: Just one day after Chris Mannix of The Vertical indicated that Goran Dragic “is open to a trade,” the Heat point guard strongly denied the report. “I totally deny that,” Dragic said of the report after Thursday’s win over the Lakers. “That’s not true. That’s bull [explitive].” It’s probably good that Dragic isn’t pushing the Heat to trade him because they might not want to with the way he’s playing this season. The 30-year-old put together another strong performance Friday with 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting and five assists despite battling back spasms throughout the game. It’s part of what’s turning out to be one of the best seasons of Dragic’s NBA career. He entered Friday’s game averaging 19.2 points and 6.7 assists, and he’s shooting a career-best 41.7 percent from 3-point range.
5. Derrick Williams sighting: The 25-year-old forward hasn’t had a consistent role this season. But after watching the Heat’s past three games from the bench, Erik Spoelstra called Derrick Williams’ name Friday and he was solid. Williams logged eight minutes of playing time — all in the second quarter — and finished with five points on 2-of-3 shooting and five rebounds off the bench in New Orleans. The former No. 2 overall pick has now played in 17 of the Heat’s 31 games this season.