SALT LAKE CITY -- Road-weary legs, single-degree temperatures outside, an engaged and sometimes nasty home crowd for the Jazz — it wasn’t a good combination for the Heat.
Miami’s fourth game of its road trip—a 104-97 loss to the Jazz—ensured the Heat can finish no better than .500 on its six-game swing out West. The Heat began the trip with an embarrassing loss to the Pacers and the game against the Jazz was, in many ways, just as bad.
“Low energy against a team like this in their building in front of their amazing crowd—we can’t play with low energy,” James said.
A few weeks ago, the Heat defeated the Jazz by 16 points with a frontcourt that laughed at convention — Udonis Haslem at center and Shane Battier at power forward. With Chris Bosh in the starting lineup and Battier out with a sore hamstring, Utah outrebounded the Heat 40-23 on Monday at EnergySolutions Arena.
Bosh finished the game with one rebound and only played 40 seconds in the fourth quarter. Just as odd, Dwyane Wade sat the entire fourth quarter as well. Still, with two of the Heat’s All-Stars on the bench, the Heat (24-12) rallied from a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter and cut the Jazz’s lead to two points with 3:32 to play.
“Everybody in our locker room, staff, players, everybody included has to give more and that’s the bottom line,” Spoelstra said. “We have to give more to get us over the hump and get a quality win.”
James played nearly 44 minutes in the loss. Either looking for a spark or wanting to send a message, Spoelstra went with an unconventional lineup throughout the fourth quarter—James, Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and Joel Anthony. At times, James was handling the ball on offense and guarding Jazz center Al Jefferson on he defensive side.
“It’s tough but whatever,” James said. “Whatever it takes for this team I try to do and put us in a position to win.”
Meanwhile, Wade deflected questions about why he didn’t reenter in the game in the fourth, saying that he’s only a player and Spoelstra is the coach.
“We can’t dig ourselves a hole…we had low energy to start the game; we had low energy to star the third quarter,” James said.
Monday night was the deadline for All-Star ballots. Early in the day, James and Heat owner Micky Arison tried to start a Twitter-generated telethon to get Bosh voted into the All-Star game as a starter. A few hours later, Bosh didn’t do much to help his cause.
He had one rebound in the first half and played timidly throughout the game against Jazz bigs Jefferson, Enes Kanter and Paul Millsap. Bosh did not record a rebound in the third quarter and only played the first 40 seconds of the final period. Still, he shot the ball well. Bosh was 8 of 13 from the field for 16 points in 27 minutes.
Bosh sat most of the final period but reentered with 40 seconds to play.
“Well, you know, sometimes I’m in a position where I have to compete with my guys for the rebound,” said Bosh, offering a possible reason for his solitary rebound. “And sometimes I do get beat. I’m human. You know, I’m a ballplayer.”
The Heat trailed by as many as 21 points in the third quarter but James energized his lethargic team. At one point, the Heat outscored Utah 24-9 in the fourth.
A three-pointer by Ray Allen with 7:12 left cut Utah’s lead to seven points. Allen’s three-pointer tied him with Robert Parish for 21st on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He later passed Parish and finished the game with 10 points.
Allen’s three-pointer came at the beginning of a 13-5 run for the Heat. A dunk by Joel Anthony on a brilliant assist by James cut Utah’s lead to 93-90. On Miami’s next possession, an equally impressive pass from James led to a pair of free-throw attempts for Anthony. He made 1 of 2 to bring the Heat within two points.
The Heat would get no closer.
Goal-tending by James put the Jazz back ahead by two possession. James then committed an offensive foul and Jefferson made both free throws to extend Utah’s lead. A 14-foot fade-away by Gordon Hayward put the Jazz ahead 100-93 with 40.4 seconds left.
Wade finished with 11 points, going 5 of 11 from the field. He had five rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes.
A three-pointer by Randy Foye gave the Jazz a 21-point lead with four minutes to play in the third quarter. The Heat was playing so poorly at that point in the third period that even Heat coach Erik Spoelstra took a seat on the bench.
Jefferson led Utah with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Hayward had 22 points off the bench. Millsap had 17 points and nine rebounds. Utah (21-19) has 25 assists on 36 field goals.
James scored 20 points in the first half for the first time this season, not that it really helped. James, Wade and Bosh were 16 of 22 from the field in the first half for 36 points and the Heat still trailed by 15 points. The Heat shot 54.2 percent from the field in the loss.
It was a harsh environment and not just for the extremely cold weather outside. Haslem jawed with Jazz fans on the bench at one point in the third quarter. Later, a fan seated courtside was kicked out of the arena heckling an official.