The final turnover of the game found the hands of Nets forward Shaun Livingston and he slammed it into the court like a touchdown celebration.
As time expired Wednesday night on the Heat’s 96-95 loss to Brooklyn, the spiked ball bounded high above the hardwood and didn’t come down until the Nets were celebrating on the home court of the defending back-to-back champions.
Nights like these were rare for the Heat in March of 2013, but one year after the Heat’s 27-game winning streak, the Heat has now lost more games in March than it has won.
The Heat is 3-4 this month, but this next record might indicate a more troubling trend. Surprisingly, the team is 0-3 against the Nets this season, and that’s a bit worrisome for the Heat considering it might match up with the Nets in the second-round of the playoffs.
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“That’s obviously a tough one to lose at home going down the stretch,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Just as it did against the Bulls on Sunday, the Heat (44-18) had a chance to win it at the buzzer against the Nets (33-30). But just like that botched attempt in Chicago, James couldn’t make the necessary play to win the game at AmericanAirlines Arena. He had the ball stripped from his hands against the Bulls. On Wednesday against the Nets, an inbounds pass never made to the back-to-back MVP.
Livingston, the Nets’ long, 6-8 guard, deflected the pass and the Heat, for the second time in three games, never attempted a shot with a chance to it win at the end.
“We tried to get the ball in LeBron’s hands, and Shaun switched and made a great play,” said Dwyane Wade, who had 22 points one 11 shots. “His arms are long and he made a great deflection.”
James went 6 of 13 from the field for 19 points, but didn’t attempt a shot in the fourth quarter. He had seven assists and five rebounds overall.
“I wasn’t in a situation to get one,” James said of not attempting a shot in the final quarter. “We ran the offense and D-Wade handled the ball a lot, and I was more of a facilitator, and that’s how the game was played.”
James went 6 of 9 from the free-throw line. Before the first quarter, James hadn’t attempted a free throw in nearly a week. In back-to-back games against the Bulls and Wizards, James never got to foul line.
The final play of the game was frustrating for the Heat’s players, especially after Wade had a chance to drive the length of the court for the win, but instead called timeout with 3.5 seconds to play. The biggest problem, though, was sloppy play in the final period. The Heat had seven turnovers in the fourth quarter and 17 total giveaways, which the Nets converted into 22 points.
“That hamstrung us,” Spoelstra said.
During a two-minute stretch in crunch time, the Heat forced three turnovers, but only managed one made free throw by Wade.
“We made furious defensive efforts down the stretch, but those empty possessions hurt us,” Spoelstra said.
Chris Bosh led the Heat with 24 points, including nine points in the fourth quarter. He was 3 of 5 from the field in the final period to go along with five rebounds.
He finished the game with seven rebounds. Mario Chalmers had 14 points and nine rebounds, but had more turnovers (four) than assists (two).
Paul Pierce led the Nets with 29 points, going 9 of 12 from the field and 5 of 7 from three-point range. As a team, the Nets went 12 and 29 from three-point range. Mirza Teletovic had 17 points off the bench and was 3 of 5 from three-point range.
The Heat trailed by six points with less than seven minutes to play in the game, but a three-pointer by Bosh cut the Nets’ lead to 92-91 with 2:58 to play. Wade then tied the score with a free throw at the two-minute mark.
The Heat lost despite shooting 53.8 percent in the final period compared to 36.4 percent for the Nets.
• Bosh’s three-pointer with 2:57 left in the game put him at 15,000 points for his career.