Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat’s flame goes out in fourth quarter loss to the Nets

The Heat hasn’t gotten over its addiction to close games. Wednesday’s affair flipped like a light switch in the last 12 minutes, handing the hosts four consecutive losses. Against the Brooklyn Nets, minus three starters, the offense crashed late, and the defense ignored the 3-point line on coach Erik Spoelstra’s birthday and in front of Dr. Jack Ramsay’s family on the night he was honored with the Heat’s Media Memorial Center.

Entering the fourth quarter, the Heat held an eight-point lead. Cam Thomas, who was averaging 33 points on 61.4% shooting, was neutralized. Miami had doubled Brooklyn’s production on the offensive glass. Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo had combined on 19 of 35 tries. Yet signals of impending doom were visible in the third, as the Nets scored easily and the hosts worked hard for buckets.

It subsequently got worse. Miami reached a new season high for turnovers as Adebayo was stripped at the elbow, resulting in a fastbreak triple. Brooklyn’s Armoni Brooks got loose, hitting two trifectas. And the Heat was burned a few more times by not having everyone rush back quickly.

The group found itself down seven with momentum slipping through its grasp. Next, Butler dove through the middle for a layup. Adebayo recovered a missed jumper for a putback between two defenders. Then Herro’s six-foot bank shot over Dorian Finney-Smith cut the deficit to a possession, but that was as far back as the quick comeback took them.

The Heat wouldn’t score a field goal again for three minutes, but after it did, officials missed a traveling violation on Lonnie Walker. He dribbled up the sideline and came down with the ball after leaving his feet. Josh Richardson fouled Bridges, but he buried two at the line and two more when the free throw game became a formality.

In the fourth quarter, the disparity in field goal percentage was 20.4% higher in favor of the Nets, who won 109-105. Scoring off turnovers (25), fastbreak points (24), and the benched getting clipped by 24 hurt the Heat most.

Spoelstra was so pissed he just waved to coach Jacque Vaughn instead of shaking his hand on the court and retreated to the locker room.

Postgame, Bridges said in the Brooklyn locker room that multiple players stayed ready. “We got a lot of depth, and they shined when the opportunity was called. That’s big for us, and good for them. We are going to need that…”

On the losing side, Spoelstra said there were a few tipping points in the game. “There was a point when we were up 15 [with] about four minutes left in the third quarter, where we had an opportunity to take that to 20, and then they took it to 10 and then under 10. That was the first shift, and then there was another… We have to find a way to sustain [leads] more consistently and better, and that’s what we’ll do.

The Heat’s record is now 1-4.

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