SACRAMENTO – Don’t tell the Miami Heat the Sacramento Kings are tanking.
For the second time this season, the Heat fell to the Kings, this time 123-119 in overtime at Golden 1 Center on Wednesday, stretching Miami’s road losing streak to nine games. The Heat blew a late lead seven weeks ago in a one-point loss to the Kings in Miami.
Miami (36-33) has lost nine games this season to six of the worst teams in the league.
The Heat forced overtime after trailing by 16 points with 10:13 to play and took a four point lead with 1:23 remaining. But De’Aaron Fox forced the overtime with a layup in traffic at the buzzer. The Kings got the ball back with 3.0 seconds remaining after Kelly Olynyk made 1-of-2 free throws allowing Fox’s game-tying basket.
Fox hit the game-winner in the final seconds in the Kings’ victory in Miami on Jan. 25. Sacramento has swept the season series against the Heat for the first time since 2002.
“It’s just unfortunate,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “The guys really battled, really put ourselves in the driver’s seat to get this game. In a different way, it just feels so much like that home game in Miami, where we’re up five and not able to close out. You do have to credit them. They played a great game. They played with tremendous energy. For most of the game, they played with more purpose and force than we did until that fourth quarter, where we really laid it all out there.”
Miami then went cold early in the extra five minutes, needing 2:10 to finally score and never were able to grab the lead.
While the Heat could point to an inept offense for the 89-88 loss to Sacramento in January, this defeat was totally on the defense. Miami allowed Sacramento (22-47), the team with the second worst offensive rating in the league, to shoot 51.1 percent.
Miami was led by Goran Dragic, who scored 33 points, 17 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Wayne Ellington added 22. Bam Adebayo, starting in place of Hassan Whiteside, pulled down 16 rebounds.
The Heat set a franchise record with 43 3-point attempts (making 18, which equals their season high) and Ellington set a franchise record with 17 3-point attempts. Ellington made six.
The Heat were without Josh Richardson, Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside. Richardson missed his first game of the season due to a sore left foot, an injury he sustained Saturday’s against Washington and played through in Portland on Monday.
Wade missed his second game with a mild hamstring strain and Whiteside sat for the third straight game with left hip pain.
Here are our five takeaways:
Blown opportunity: With Milwaukee losing at Orlando, the Heat had a chance to move back into the seventh spot and just a half game behind No 6 Philadelphia. Sacramento entered tied for the fifth worst record in the league but the Heat once again struggled against the younger Kings. Miami remains in eighth, one/half game behind the Bucks. The good news: Miami still is five games clear of No. 9 Detroit.
“We need to start playing sooner,” Dragic said. “We cannot just turn the switch on and try to come back when we’re down 16 or 12. Then [our] game needs to be perfect. Every possession needs to go your way. Tonight we were not right. We allowed them to score close to 60 points in the first half. That’s too much.”
Defense digs a hole: The Heat may have entered Wednesday with the 10th best defensive rating in the league allowing 104.4 points per 100 possessions, but for the second straight game the defense was a big reason the Heat fell behind. Just as it did Monday in Portland, the Heat allowed 59 points in the first half against the Kings and trailed by seven. Sacramento shot 53.2 percent in the first 24 minutes. But it got worse in the third quarter as the Kings made 13-of-19 shots.
“We didn’t play Miami Heat basketball in the first half, it came back and got us,” James Johnson said. “You can’t be complacent. You can’t take nobody for granted. We’re not there yet to turn it on and off.”
Dragic’s big night: Dragic equaled his season high in points and shot 11-of-21, including 3-of-4 on 3-pointers. For the second straight game he set the tone early. Dragic had eight first-quarter points making four of his first five shots. He had 16 points at the end of three quarters and then spearheaded the Heat’s comeback with 15 fourth quarter points. Dragic then equaled his season high with two free throws in overtime.
“Yeah, he was terrific,” Spoelstra said. “He was so inspiring, making big plays and really generating most of the looks. It was just a high pick and roll between him and (Olynyk) and they found the weak points in that time and time again. He was just tremendous.”
Make that 22 different starting lineups: With Richardson out, Spoelstra was forced to go with his 22nd different starting lineup of the season, which equaled the number he used last season. Spoelstra went with Dragic, Tyler Johnson, James Johnson, Luke Babbitt and Adebayo. That lineup, which had not played together all season, outscored the Kings by four points during its time together on the floor.
Not that team again: The Heat conclude this road trip Friday against a Lakers team that is playing much better than their record indicates. And nobody knows that better than Miami. The Lakers were 26-34 when they came into Miami two weeks ago and proceeded to run Miami out of the building. L.A.’s 131-113 victory marked the most points the Heat have allowed in regulation in a regular-season game since the Warriors scored 134 on March 7, 2008. The objective: Slow down the Lakers, who are expected to be without Brandon Ingram, who injured his groin in that win in Miami.