Five takeaways from Heat-Pacers: Road struggles continue for Heat in loss that drops them to No. 8 in East standings

Indiana Pacers forward Trevor Booker (20) fouls Miami Heat forward Kelly Olynyk (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Sunday, March 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS — Another road game, another loss.

The Heat’s struggles away from home continued in a 113-107 overtime loss to the Pacers (43-31) on Sunday at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. Miami (39-35) has now won just one of its past 12 road games.

The good news is after completing this quick two-game trip, just two of Miami’s final eight regular-season games will come on the road. The Heat now return to AmericanAirlines Arena for a four-game homestand that begins Tuesday against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But Sunday’s road loss was especially painful, as it came against a team battling with the Heat for playoff positioning. Miami fell to eighth in the Eastern Conference, with the Bucks taking a one-half game over the Heat for seventh. Fifth-place Indiana now has a four-game lead over Miami in the standings.

“We knew it was going to be a game that was going to come down to the end — two teams, two Eastern Conference teams battling at this time of the year,” said Dwyane Wade, who finished with 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting. “It’s just about, as we always say, who makes the most [shots]. … It was a great game. It was great competition from both teams, from start to finish.”

The Heat led by as many as 14 points in the first half, but the Pacers came all the way back to take an eight-point advantage into the fourth quarter. Miami put together a comeback of its own in the final period, though, outscoring Indiana 22-14 in the fourth to force overtime.

The Heat even had a chance to take a one-point lead with 8.3 seconds remaining in regulation, but James Johnson made just one of two free throws. That was enough to tie the score, but not enough to put Miami ahead.

“Confused. I was confused,” Johnson said of how he felt after missing the potential game-winning free throw. “I know what it feels like when I let it go and it felt good, it really did feel good and I thought we were just going to have to get back on defense and make one more big stop. But I got my team behind me, we went to the huddle, it was all encouragement.”

The Pacers went on to outscore the Heat 17-11 over those extra five minutes behind eight points from Darren Collison in overtime.

“Credit to them,” Wade said. “They made an adjustment in overtime. We were shrinking up the court. They were running a lot of picks and rolls and they starting screening down on the man shrinking from the big guy and he got open a couple of those shots. We had our defensive scheme, going into overtime. They made an adjustment and [Collison] made big shots.”

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with a game-high 23 points, five assists and three steals. Thaddeus Young added 22 points, nine rebounds, five steals and three blocks.

Six Heat players finished with double-digit points, led by 19 from Tyler Johnson. Miami shot 14-of-35 on 3-pointers.

The Heat played without starting center Hassan Whiteside, who missed his eighth consecutive game with a left hip flexor strain.

Here are our five takeaways …

Standings watch: The Heat’s loss didn’t just drop them to No. 8 in the Eastern Conference, it also clinched a playoff spot for the Pacers and 76ers. With the Bucks beating the Spurs on Sunday, Milwaukee moved one-half game ahead of Miami and into seventh place. The Heat are 1.5 games behind the No. 6 Wizards, and four games behind the No. 5 Pacers and No. 4 76ers. But, don’t worry. With the Heat holding a 5.5 game lead over the ninth-place Pistons and eight regular-games remaining, Miami will be one of the East’s eight playoff teams barring an epic collapse. It’s all about playoff positioning now.

Too many turnovers: A big part of the Heat’s recent offensive surge has been their ability to stay away from turnovers. Miami entered Sunday averaging the fifth-lowest turnovers per game in the NBA since the All-Star break at 12.3. But that number will go up after the Heat committed 17 turnovers in Indianapolis, with the Pacers scoring 20 off of those mistakes. It’s the most turnovers the Heat have finished a game with since a Jan. 31 loss in Cleveland.

“Once they get those turnovers, they go,” Wade said of Indiana. “Of everything we did, that’s the one thing we would like to get back.”

Tyler Johnson, the sharpshooter?: Since the All-Star break, Tyler Johnson has been the Heat’s top 3-point shooter. And his hot shooting continued Sunday, as the Heat’s starting shooting guard finished with 19 points with the help of 5-of-8 shooting from long range. Those five made threes tied a career-high for Johnson in a single game. He is now shooting 46.3 percent in 14 games since the break. He made 35.2 percent of his threes before All-Star Weekend. Just another reason why this season’s Heat team is the most prolific 3-point shooting squad in franchise history. Despite Johnson’s hot shooting, he logged just four minutes of playing time in the fourth quarter and watched the entire overtime from the bench.

“It helps a lot. Tyler is a good player,” Goran Dragic said. “He was really hot in the beginning of the game. I feel like that he didn’t get a lot of shots after that, so maybe we should go more often to him. But it is what it is.”

Watch your head when Bam Adebayo is around: This 20-year-old Heat rookie is athletic … very athletic. The 6-foot-10, 255-pound Bam Adebayo has already flashed his ability to dunk on almost anybody that’s in front of him. More than half of his made field goals have come on dunks this season (83 dunks on 160 made shots). On Sunday, his leaping ability was on display once again. Adebayo had four dunks, two of them on alley-oop assists from Dwyane Wade and one was particularly impressive with Adebayo throwing it down with his left hand. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting. It was an encouraging performance from Adebayo, who has experienced some struggles filling in for the injured Hassan Whiteside. Before Sunday’s impressive stat line, Adebayo was shooting 17-of-52 (32.7 percent) in his first seven games starting in Whiteside’s place.

“He was great, especially to start the game for us,” Heat acting head coach Dan Craig said. “His screening, his triggers getting to the rim, it opened up a lot for us later in the game. His start was key for us, especially in this building on the road.”

Playing without Erik Spoelstra: For the first time since Erik Spoelstra became the Heat’s head coach on April 28, 2008, he wasn’t on the sideline Sunday. Instead, Spoelstra was back in Miami with his wife, Nikki, for the birth of their baby boy. Assistant coach Dan Craig stepped in for Spoelstra as Miami’s head coach. Although this was Craig’s first game at the helm with the Heat, he has prior head coaching experience. He led Miami’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, to a championship in 2015-16. One other interesting fact regarding Spoelstra’s absence: Before Sunday, Spoelstra had only missed just 5.6 seconds of action since becoming the Heat’s head coach at the start of the 2008-09 season. He was ejected once with 5.6 seconds remaining in a Jan. 11, 2012 overtime loss to the Clippers.

“I think to start the game there was a little bit of an adjustment,” Craig said of filling in for Spoelstra. “Once I got into it, I felt pretty comfortable. The assistants did a great job helping me coach the game and the players, too. They did a great job in the huddles staying together and on the court.”

[Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to miss Sunday’s game as he awaits birth of baby]

[Why is this season’s Heat team the most prolific 3-point shooting group in franchise history?]

[How big is Sunday’s game vs. Pacers for Heat? A look at the matchup and what’s at stake]

[A strength in numbers? Here’s why Heat believe their balanced offensive attack is a key to their success]

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