Thursday night’s home win against the Lakers marked a step forward for the Heat: the end of a three-game losing streak and a career night for rookie Justise Winslow. But if Miami brought any momentum from that home win into New Orleans, that vigor wore out by the second half. The Heat let a 14-point lead slide away against a team known for struggling down the stretch, and took a 91-87 loss at Smoothie King Center on Friday night.
“It all started at the end of the third quarter,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Once we got that 14-point lead, we didn’t close out the way we needed to and it really started with our offense. Our offense really got stagnant.
“We allowed them to get those relief baskets, to get a little closer, and the 14-point lead went to four just like that. And it became a ball game.
“Now, we still had opportunities…we talk about so many intangibles in this game, momentum changing plays — there’s a 50/50 ball up for grabs, they got it, they knocked down three,” Spoelstra said, referencing a block by E’twaun Moore with four minutes to play.
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Moore passed the ball up to to Langston Galloway, who sunk a long shot to give the Pelicans their second lead of the fourth quarter. From there, Jrue Holiday followed up with a steal that led to two sunk free throws.
Miami had kept a consistent, if fluctuating, edge over New Orleans for much of the first half and the start of the second. Goran Dragic finished with a team-high 23 points, four rebounds and five assists. Winslow had 12 points and seven assists, and both Tyler Johnson and James Johnson added in 11 points, with 10 assists for the latter. Hassan Whiteside was held to 10 points — his lowest production since the team’s Dec. 9 loss to Cleveland — and 18 rebounds.
Anthony Davis led all scorers with 28 points and had a career-high 22 rebounds.
In the last 3:28 of the game, Miami attempted 11 shots and made four. Dragic, playing in his 600th career game, made a long two with 1:07 to play to get the game within three points. But Whiteside missed on his next possession, and seconds later, with the Heat still down by three, Johnson and Whiteside both came up short on layup attemps. Whiteside drew a foul when attempting the putback, but missed both his free throws.
“We all probably just need to step back right now” Spoelstra said when asked to give a state of the union on the team heading into a three-day break.
“There’s a lot of emotion, after this game. It’s disappointing. We’ve been in so many games like this.”