Five takeaways from the Heat’s 124-123 overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, which was Miami’s third consecutive defeat and eighth in its past nine games.
1. Despite the Heat’s dominance in the paint, it had no answer for Anthony Davis. Justise Winslow drew the task first and picked up two fouls in less than three minutes. James Johnson took his place and didn’t fare much better. Even seldom-used Luke Babbitt enjoyed only brief success defending Davis, who recorded his sixth 40-point game of the season and came up only three points short of his season-high.
Davis also finished with 17 rebounds, five steals and five blocks.
"He do everything," Dwyane Wade said. "They go to him a lot, too. So they are always putting pressure on you. When you got a big that a point guard can run a pick-and-roll for him and he can step back and shoot a three off that, amongst the other things he do, man.
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"So he’s special, there’s no question about that. I think everybody in New Orleans and the basketball world knows he’s special. The only thing you can do is just try to make it tough on him. But even trying to make it tough on him, he still gets 40. That’s the kind of player he is."
Wade hit a pair of go-ahead buckets in the final minute of overtime. Davis answered the first by scoring, drawing a foul on Bam Adebayo and converting the go-ahead free throw to put the Pelicans up 122-121.
And with Davis drawing attention, the Pelicans guards took advantage as Jrue Holiday finished with 29 points, hitting the winning shot with 7.3 seconds left on a 10-foot jumper, and Ian Clark had 21 points.
"They have great guards especially Jrue Holiday," Goran Dragic said. "He’s really big. Basically when they play pick and roll if you zone too much, Anthony Davis will be open for a shot or for a lob. If you don’t then Jrue is going to get inside the paint and it’s really tough to guard him because he’s strong and long and he can finish over guys."
2. The Heat’s focus was to slow the game down and attack the paint. It accomplished the latter outscoring the Pelicans 70-62 in the paint, but had one of its worst games allowing fast break points as New Orleans scored 37.
The Heat entered the game averaging only 10.6 fast break points allowed and playing the third-slowest pace in the NBA.
"This team, especially in the first half, they get out and they go," Wade said. "So that was a point of emphasis for our team, to be able to get back in transition. Knowing they get a lot of quick shots, quick threes up, so try to eliminate that and make them beat you in the half court. They wound up beating us in the half court. They executed down the stretch."
While the number of points in the paint was impressive, the Heat had a greater advantage (56-36) through three quarters.
"That's the thing, there’s so many good things [about this game]," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That’s what’s tough about this game. Nothing is guaranteed. That’s where you have to show and develop resolve, forge ahead, because there are things that we’re improving on. Our attack game is getting better, it’s getting more coherent. We’re working together to get the type of opportunities we want. We always want to be an inside-outside team first. We made some big plays in the paint. Hassan was very good in many stretches of the game, really impacting."
3-Dwyane Wade hits two big shots late, but couldn’t make the decisive one in the closing seconds. Wade gave the Heat the lead twice in the final minute of overtime hitting jumpers with 36 seconds left and 21.7 seconds left.
But with the Heat out of timeouts with 7.3 to go after Holiday’s go-ahead score, Wade’s runner with two seconds left didn’t find the mark.
Wade took the most shots (20) in a game he has this season and made seven of them to finish with 16 points.
"That wasn't bad," Spoelstra said of Wade’s look on the final attempt. "I was fine with that. Guys were aware that we didn't have any timeouts. We got the ball back to Dwyane without any pressure. He was able to get it to his sweet spot, shoot a pretty comfortable shot. Shot faked it, but he was in rhythm. It was as good a look as you can get in that circumstance."
4-Goran Dragic flirts with a triple-double, but not enough to result in a much-needed win. Dragic scored 30 points and totaled nine rebounds and eight assists on 12 of 22 shooting. But Dragic, like the rest of the Heat, struggled to slow down the Pelicans’ backcourt in transition.
"We had a couple of breakdowns especially on transition," Dragic said. "They scored 24 points in the first half in transition so those are points we should have eliminated."
5-Is the Heat in ‘must-win mode’ against Memphis on Saturday? Even though it has 23 games left, the Heat is seeing its chances of significantly moving up in the standings slipping away and may not be able to hold the eighth seed much longer without a stretch of victories.
Miami was fortunate the Detroit Pistons didn’t gain ground on Friday after they lost to Boston keeping the Heat’s lead for the final playoff spot in the East at 1½ games. But the Heat slipped further behind the teams holding the No. 4-7 seeds as it now trails the Wizards and Pacers by four games each, the Bucks by 3½ and the 76ers by two games.
The Heat opens a five-game homestand Saturday against the Grizzlies that continues with matchups against the 76ers, Lakers, Pistons and Suns.