sports 3 days ago

Wade's double-double and Dragic's 28 not enough as Heat loses for sixth time in seven games

The Miami Herald — Barry Jackson The Miami Herald

Feb. 14--Five takeaways from the Heat's 115-112 loss in Toronto, Miami's sixth defeat in its last seven games:

-- Heat-Raptors has the potential to be a competitive and highly entertaining playoff series if the teams meet in the first round, which would be the case if the current seeding stays the same.

After winning 89-88 here last month, Miami had a chance to tie Tuesday's game late after a furious rally, but Josh Richardson's desperation 29-footer at the buzzer bounced off.

The Heat ended the game on a 16-3 run but ultimately couldn't overcome a 21-4 Raptors blitz in the final 4:16 of the third quarter, a stretch in which Miami committed four turnovers and was overwhelmed defensively.

"Our offense got us in trouble, not getting organized, getting sped up by their pressure," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We didn't show the necessary poise to execute with a purpose. They just seemed to score every time down the other way and we weren't able to hold the fort. That's not our formula, to win in a shootout."

During that stretch, which Goran Dragic observed from the bench, "we couldn't get into our offense," Dragic said. "We didn't get a good shot. They were scoring so easily. We can't allow ourselves to get completely sideways."

Josh Richardson spoke of "no moral victories" but there was plenty to be said for the competitiveness on a night Miami exceeded its season scoring average by nearly 12 per game.

"We feel we're a good team," Spoelstra said.

Said Dragic: "We fought hard. They are just a good team. It was hard to comeback but we did."

One big difference in the game: The Raptors scored 28 points off 16 Heat turnovers. Miami scored only nine off eight Toronto turnovers.

And the Heat couldn't slow DeMar DeRozan (27 points) or Kyle Lowry (22).

-- Dwyane Wade demonstrated that he can still fill the box score in several categories, at age 36. Beyond the 10 points and six assists, he also had 11 rebounds in 21 minutes -- one more than Hassan Whiteside had in 22 minutes.

"I could go on and on about Dwyane and how he impacts winning," Spoelstra said. "You saw it tonight in a different way with the rebounding and facilitating."

The second unit -- with Wade, Bam Adebayo, Wayne Ellington and James Johnson -- played very well in the first half but was on the court for the duration of that 21-4 Raptors blitz in the third.

"We had a bad three, four minutes," Wade said. "You always can put it on the defensive side of the ball. We had some turnovers. This is a great fast breaking team and when you give them extra opportunities by turning it over they're tough.

"We've got to do a better job of withstanding a run out there. A lot of credit to the unit that came in and brought us back [late], kept fighting. Overall I definitely think our focus we got to do a better job defensively overall."

In his second game with the team, Wade said: "I feel way better trying to understand a little bit more what we're trying to do. As we play more together obviously we only got one more before the break. ... The guys in the unit I'm playing in to get more comfortable with me and we'll get even better. I saw some positive things; I saw some things I can get better at as well."

-- There is clearly accountability with Josh Richardson, who was very hard on himself in a quiet moment afterward.

Richardson has played like a top-half-of-the-league small forward since December, and he was upset with his work on a night he scored 10 points (3 for 9 shooting), with five assists, three rebounds and a steal.

Toronto outscored Miami, 15-4, late in the third after he replaced Justise Winslow.

Richardson said Spoelstra trusts him to carry a lot of responsibility when he plays with that second group and he simply didn't do enough.

"I didn't bring it like I should have," he said. "I have to lead our team. I didn't calm us down. I didn't get normal stops. I wasn't being my normal self."

After C.J. Miles missed the second of two free throws with 3.9 seconds left, Richardson said "I tried to dribble as far as I could" before missing the 29-footer, but not by a lot.

-- The Heat used to win most of Dragic's big scoring nights. Not this month.

From the beginning of the 2016-17 season through January of this year, the Heat was 14-5 when Dragic scored at least 25 points. But Miami has lost three in a row in that situation. He scored 33 in a loss to Detroit, 30 in a loss to Houston and 28 in Tuesday's loss.

Dragic scored 16 points in the third quarter but was replaced by Wade with 4:45 left in the quarter and the Raptors up two. He returned with 9:56 left in the fourth and the Raptors up 12.

"I could have gotten him in a couple minutes earlier," Spoelstra said.

-- Even though it's just one of 82, Wednesday's game in Philadelphia feels particularly meaningful.

The Heat (30-27) enters Wednesday in eighth in the East, one-half game behind Philadelphia (29-25) but 2.5 games ahead of No. 9 Detroit.

The Heat fell behind by 26 to the 76ers after three quarters of their game earlier this month before a late rally that left the final margin at 103-97. With a win, Philadelphia would take a 2-0 lead in the season series, with the teams scheduled to play twice in Miami over the final two months.

"We had a really bad game there," Dragic said. "We want to revenge that loss. We're getting there. We're playing much better of late" -- though the bottom line (six losses in seven games) wouldn't necessarily reflect that.

Wade's take: "We definitely understand there is 20 odd games left and we definitely understand where we're at in the standings, coach makes sure we see the standings every day. This game would have been a great one to get. There's not moral victories at all.

"We needed this game, we got to focus and turn our attention on the next one and try to go into the break feeling good about ourselves and come out of the break knowing we got to go."

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