If Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena was a preview, making the playoffs is going to be extremely difficult for the Miami Heat without Chris Bosh.
Before the game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called the remaining regular-season schedule an “extended March Madness.” It might be closer to an extended spring sadness.
Capping a day of raw emotions for the Heat and its fans, the team lost 105-91 to the New Orleans Pelicans in point guard Goran Dragic’s first game with the team. Earlier in the day, the Heat introduced Goran and his brother, Zoran, with a news conference before releasing news that Bosh’s season was over.
In a Miami-area hospital being treated for blood clots in his lungs since Thursday, Bosh finished his 12th season in the NBA with an appearance in the All-Star Game last Sunday. A 10-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion, Bosh will be difficult to replace over the next few months. The team has been built and rebuilt four times over this season, and this latest construction project is being held together with basketball duct tape.
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“You don’t replace what he gives you in terms of the level of basketball he plays … but we have other guys who are very capable,” Spoelstra said.
So there was Dwyane Wade, walking off the court with four minutes left in the third quarter and his team down 19 points to a Pelicans squad playing without its two best players, forwards Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson, who both left the game with injuries in the first half. Suspended disbelief seemed to be an appropriate phrase for the moment, considering the past few days.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” Wade said. “We have an opportunity to still make the playoffs.”
Thrown into a game only a few hours after meeting his new teammates, Dragic finished with 12 points, three rebounds and one assist in 33 minutes. He was 4 of 11 from the field in his Heat debut.
“It was tough,” Dragic said. “I didn’t know where to go.”
The Heat is 9-16 at home this season, and, at 23-31 overall, now a half-game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets for seventh place in the Eastern Conference. The playoff race will be riveting for some and depressing for others.
Wade had 19 points in the loss, going 8 of 23 from the field in his first home game since injuring his right hamstring against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 27. The Heat has lost seven of 10 games since then.
A surreal day only got even weirder early on. For example: there was Pelicans guard Norris Cole — removed from his old team by only two days — raising his hand to a standing ovation at midcourt after the first official timeout. By that point, things had already gone from unbelievable to unimaginable.
Pelicans All-Star forward Anthony Davis reaggravated a preexisting right shoulder injury during the first quarter and walked off the court in pain before play could be stopped. Davis injured his shoulder trying to go inside on Heat center Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside contested the shot, and Davis’ extended arm wrenched backward during the contact near the rim.
Davis hunched over in pain as the action moved to the Heat’s half of the court, and he then walked off the floor and directly to the visiting locker room. Davis injured his shoulder before the All-Star break, and then missed the All-Star Game to get healthy for the second half of the season.
As if news of Bosh’s condition and Davis’ injury weren’t enough, the Pelicans second-best player then went down with a non-contact knee injury in the second quarter. Forward Ryan Anderson fell under the basket and was helped off the court and to the Heat’s locker room. The team later called it a sprain.
Mario Chalmers, now coming off the bench for the team, led the Heat with 20 points, going 9 of 13 from the field and 2 of 5 from three-point range. Whiteside had 11 points and 16 rebounds, giving him seven double-doubles in his past 10 games.
Guard Eric Gordon led the Pelicans with 24 points. New Orleans went 27 of 31 from the free-throw line and scored 24 points off of 17 Heat turnovers.