Throw in the coaches and there were almost as many suits on the Heat’s bench as players.
Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Chris Andersen and Greg Oden were all inactive for the Heat on Friday in Sacramento and the lack of manpower contributed to Miami’s first loss to a team in the Western Conference in 20 games. But the worst of it wasn’t the 108-103 loss to the Kings in overtime. LeBron James, forced to play 43 minutes, strained his right groin during the game and also tweaked his left ankle.
The injuries left him questionable for Saturday’s marquee matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers, the top team in the West.
“I’ll see how I feel on our trip to Portland tonight and tomorrow, but it ain’t feeling too good right now,” James said, who added that the most important thing facing the Heat right now isn’t the Trail Blazers, but rather the need to get healthy.
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Despite the injuries, James made three three-pointers in about 30 seconds in the final minute of overtime to keep things interesting. But the Kings weren’t letting this one get away. Sacramento built an eight-point lead in the extra period and then got a key tip-in from DeMarcus Cousins and four clutch free throws from Isaiah Thomas to hold off the Heat (22-7).
The loss snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Heat against the Kings (9-19) and Miami entered the game with 19-straight victories against teams in the Western Conference. James finished with 33 points, going 12 of 23 from the field, and Chris Bosh had 18 points. Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole combined for 24 points.
The Heat shot 44.2 percent. It was the Heat’s worst shooting percentage since its loss to Indiana on Dec.10 (42.9 percent).
“We had a very poor third quarter,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Our offense got us in trouble. A lot of jump shots. It takes a commitment to the energy, the effort, the multiple situations to get to the paint.”
Sacramento outscored Miami 60-38 in the paint.
James said he didn’t know when he strained his groin muscle, but his immobility in the third quarter, along with a general lack of energy from the entire team, allowed the Kings to rally from a 17-point first-half deficit. The Heat shot 27.8 percent (5 of 18) in the decisive period and were outscored 29-18.
The Heat led by four points with 2:42 to play in regulation, but went 0 of 3 from the field and 0 of 2 from the free-throw line from there. It was a particularly poor sequence of events for Chalmers.
He missed the free throws with 1:45 to play and then committed a flagrant foul on Cousins with 1:19 to go. Cousins made both free throws and Rudy Gay tied the game with a 14-foot turnaround jumper on the awarded possession. James then missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.
"I went for a box out and he flopped,” Chalmers said of Cousins. “He went flying. That's exactly what happened. He flopped."
Whatever happened, Cousins went flying to the floor only a 11 seconds after hitting the deck a first time by way of a hard foul from James. The physical play made for an exciting ending to regulation, but the Kings pulled away easily in overtime.
“If we didn’t have the necessary energy, then that’s our fault,” Bosh said. “We had our chances and we didn’t capitalize. Anytime we have Dwyane and [Andersen] and Ray out, it’s a little bit more that everyone has to give. You have to step up a little more and be aggressive and make plays.”
Cousins led the Kings with 27 points, including 20 points in the second half and overtime. Gay, who also scored 20 points in the second half and overtime, finished with 26 points. The Kings shot 49.4 percent despite beginning the game 8 of 23 from the field.