Five takeaways: Heat start road trip with discouraging loss as rally falls short in Denver

Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets has his shot blocked by Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat at the Pepsi Center Friday. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

This is not the way Miami wanted to start its season long road trip.

The Heat made a furious rally in the final five minutes but fell short, dropping 95-94 decision to the Denver Nuggets Friday at the Pepsi Center as Dion Waiters’ 23-foot jumper at the buzzer rattled in an out.

“It went in and out, you got to live with that.” Waiters told Fox Sports Sun after the game. “It sucks. We put ourselves in a position to win. Coming down the stretch we just got to do a better job of knowing what’s going on, what guys like to do, put ourselves in a better situation.”

The Heat (3-5) were outscored 27-8 over a 12-minute stretch in the third and fourth quarters. Miami led by two late but Paul Millsap made three free throws after being fouled by James Johnson with 11 seconds remaining to give Denver (5-4) the win.

Miami came out sizzling shooting 15-of-19 from the floor including 7-of-10 on 3 pointers while charging to a 37-28 first quarter lead. But that all changed in the third quarter as the Heat went ice cold and dug themselves a nine-point hole.

Goran Dragic led the Heat with 22 points while Waiters and Johnson had 15 each. Hassan Whiteside had 13 points but just three rebounds in 24 minutes, snapping a streak of nine consecutive double-doubles.

Millsap led all scorers with 27 points.

“Tough loss,” Dragic said. “We feel like we were going to win that game.”

Here are our five takeaways…

Oh, so close: The Heat had a chance to start this trip on a high but could not close the game. Miami trailed 87-78 with five minutes to play before going on a 15-4 run to regain the lead on a Josh Richardson 3 pointer with 2:21 to play. Miami led by one point when Dragic went to the line with 23 seconds remaining, but he made just one of two. Millsap then was fouled by Johnson and made all three free throws just 15 seconds after he missed two.

“You feel the emotions right now, everybody is disappointed,” coach Erik Spoelstra said, before taking a look at the bigger picture. “A lot of the pace and how we want to play was a little bit more in our ballpark.”

Tough way to start trip: By squandering the opportunity in Denver, Miami now is in danger of starting this six-game trip with three consecutive losses. Miami has a tough back-to-back next with games against the Clippers on Sunday and Warriors on Monday. The teams are a combined 11-5.

Third quarter blues: Whatever coach Spoelstra is saying at halftime, it isn’t working. The Heat have been a train wreck in the third quarter this year, being outscored by 48 points in eight games, including 12 (25-13) in Denver. Miami shot 3-of-18 in the quarter and had six turnovers. The Heat never trailed in the first half and fell behind by nine in the fourth quarter before climbing back into the game.

“They got too many 50-50 balls, offensive rebounds, second chance points,” Dragic said.

Same bad habits: The Heat entered the game in the bottom third in the league in turnovers, 15.6 per game; points in the paint allowed, 48.3; and second chance points allowed, 16.9 (last in the league) and continued that trend in all three categories. Miami finished with 22 turnovers, Denver had 50 points in the paint and 16 second chance points. Especially troubling, the turnovers, which are becoming a major concern. Miami has had four games with at least 19 turnovers.

“The turnovers were again a challenge for us but the guys gave us a chance to win at the end on the road,” Spoelstra said. “We still have to keep that in mind.”

Bench press: Johnson returned to floor and to the bench after missing one game with tendinitis in his right knee and made his presence known. Johnson came off the bench for just the second time this season and first since the season opener and looked like his old self, finishing with 15 points, 10 rebound and four assists before fouling out. His first shot was an airball 3-pointer but he took five more shots in game, making them all. Johnson entered the game shooting 66.7 percent on two pointers but just 17.6 percent on threes. Johnson, though, wasn’t thinking about those numbers at the end.

“I tried to shoot the gap, he got a little step on me,” Johnson said of the foul that determined the outcome. “Great players are going to do great things in situations like that and Paul Millsap did. It’s still running through my head, I feel bad for our guys, we worked really hard and were playing really hard.”

[James Johnson to return for Heat tonight against Denver]

[Former player John Crotty named as Heat’s next television analyst]

[Wade calls final year of Big 3 in Miami a “bad marriage.” Says he came to Cavs to be part of solution, not problem]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s