Five takeaways: Miami Heat go from winning streak to losing streak with loss to Orlando Magic

MIAMI — After watching their 13-game winning streak end Saturday, the Heat are now in the middle of a losing streak.

Miami (24-32) just hopes it doesn’t last as long as its recent string of wins. The Heat dropped their second straight in a 116-107 loss to the Magic (21-36) on Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“It just shows you how tough this league is,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Every single night, it’s a challenge. There are a lot of teams that are bunched up. We didn’t play near our best defensive game, really the last two games we didn’t really get to our identity.”

Orlando Magic's Evan Fournier (10) drives to the basket as Miami Heat's Goran Dragic defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Orlando Magic’s Evan Fournier (10) drives to the basket as Miami Heat’s Goran Dragic defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The Heat could never overcome their slow start, as they trailed by as much as 14 points in the second quarter. Miami worked its way back into the game and even led by four points with 9:33 remaining in the fourth quarter.

But from there, the Magic outscored the Heat 27-14 over the final nine minutes to get the win.

Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters were effective and efficient in the loss, combining to score 45 points on 47.1 percent shooting. James Johnson added 15 points off the bench.

But Orlando’s balanced scoring was the winning formula Monday. Six Magic players finished with double-digit points led by 24 from Evan Fournier.

Here are our five takeaways from the game …

Heat defense struggles: Strong defense was a constant during Miami’s 13-game winning streak. But the Heat struggled on that side of the court Monday, as the Magic scored 116 points on 48.9 percent shooting and racked up 52 paint points. And Miami’s rim protection was almost non-existent, as Orlando made 69.2 percent of its shots at the rim. Down the stretch, Miami couldn’t get the stops it needed as Orlando shot 56.3 percent over the final nine minutes of the game. This poor defensive performance comes after the Heat allowed the 76ers to score 117 points on 45.3 percent shooting Saturday.

“Our defense was bad and that’s not our identity,” Dragic said. “That’s not what we’re known for. We can’t win games like that.”

Coming back down to earth: After shooting an incredible NBA-best 42 percent from 3-point range during their 13-game winning streak, the Heat haven’t been able to sustain that success rate recently. Miami made just six of its 22 3-point attempts on Monday and is now shooting 28.9 percent from long range over its past two games.

Hassan Whiteside gets early hook: It was a weird night for Whiteside. The Heat’s $98 million center was sent to the bench earlier than usual with 9:15 remaining in the first quarter. It looked to be as a result of poor play, as the Heat trailed 10-2 with Orlando winning the rebounding battle 9-1 and outscoring Miami in the paint 8-0 when Whiteside was pulled early on. Whiteside played better when he returned to the game, but he wasn’t his usual dominant self. He finished with 12 points and a game-high 19 rebounds, but allowed Orlando to win the points in the paint battle 52-48.

“He just took me out because the guy got a rebound,” Whiteside said of Spoelstra’s decision to pull him early in the game. “It went over my head. It happens, man. I lead the league in rebounds the last time I checked. So I know how to rebound. It just went over my head. We talked about it and I came back in and I led both teams in rebounds.”

Goran Dragic better like free throws: Because he gets a lot of them. Dragic drew enough fouls to take 10 free throws against Orlando. He made all of them. That’s way above his season average, as Dragic entered Monday’s game ranked 14th in the NBA among guards with 4.9 free-throw attempts per game. The high amount of free throws helped Miami’s starting point guard finish with 22 points despite 6-of-15 shooting from the field.

Dion Waiters is back: After missing three games with a sprained left ankle, Waiters made his return Monday. The Heat’s starting shooting guard finished with 23 points and six assists in his return. It marked Waiters’ first game in a week, as he suffered the ankle injury in Miami’s win over Minnesota last Monday. But the time off didn’t show in Waiters’ game, as he was active on both ends of the court with a 10-of-19 shooting performance and two steals in 33 minutes. Waiters’ return will help the Heat, as Miami outscored teams by 100 points with him on the court during the 13-game winning streak.

“He played more minutes than I probably anticipated playing him,” Spoelstra said of Waiters. “But he looked fine out there. If he was feeling any kind of pain, he was definitely faking it to me and Jay [Sabol].”

[Dwyane Wade reflects on time with Heat, praises Erik Spoelstra, discusses Pat Riley on ‘The Vertical Podcast’]

[Heat center Hassan Whiteside in awe of meeting fellow Marshall great, Hal Greer]

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