What went wrong for the Heat down the stretch vs. Trail Blazers?

Goran Dragic #7 of the Miami Heat reacts to a call by referee Curtis Blair #74 in the second quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at American Airlines Arena on December 13, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

MIAMI — So much went right for the Heat over the first 28 minutes of Wednesday’s game. From there, so much went wrong.

With 8:30 remaining in the third quarter, Miami led Portland by 16 points. But the Trail Blazers took over from there to rally for a 102-95 comeback win over the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Wednesday.

Portland outscored Miami 48-25 over the final 20:10. The Heat made just seven of their final 26 shots during this stretch as the Trail Blazers dug themselves out of the 16-point hole.

The 16-point lead Miami allowed to go to waste is the biggest lead it’s squandered this season.

What went wrong for the Heat down the stretch? Here are five things …

* The Heat’s offense was pushed farther away from the basket. After the Heat outscored the Trail Blazers 28-14 in the paint over the first 27:30, Portland turned things around to outscore Miami 20-6 in the paint during its comeback that spanned the final 20:10. One possible explanation for Miami’s late-game struggles near the basket? Just five of the Heat’s final 27 shot attempts came at the rim, while 10 of them came from 3-point range. Not a great ratio.

* Josh Richardson disappeared on offense. After scoring 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the first quarter, Richardson didn’t score another point the rest of the way. He took just three shots over the final three quarters and missed each of them. Considering Richardson has been one of the Heat’s most efficient offensive players over the past two weeks, his quiet finish didn’t help Miami.

* The Heat just couldn’t hold down Damian Lillard down the stretch. After limiting Lillard to five points on 1-of-4 shooting over the first 27:30, he was Portland’s best player late in the game. Lillard scored a team-high 13 points during the Trail Blazers’ comeback over the final 20:10. It was only a matter of time before Lillard found his offense, as he’s ranked fifth in the league in scoring this season at 26.3 points per game.

* Poor free-throw shooting crippled the Heat. After earning just five free throws over the first 27:30, Miami didn’t have a problem getting to the foul line the rest of the way. The Heat actually attempted 18 free throws over the final 20:10, but they made only 10 of them. That’s just not good enough, especially in a possession game that was decided in the final minutes.

* The Heat’s starting backcourt of Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters was off. After starting 7-of-17 from the field, the duo combined to make 3 of their final 13 shots and also missed six free throws over the final 20:10. In comparison, Portland’s starting backcourt of CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard combined for 21 points after the Heat’s lead grew to 16 in the third quarter.

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