Remember all that optimism percolating from the Heat’s 5-2 start, including that impressive win in Dallas a week ago?
It’s greatly diminished after this three-game losing streak, including a demoralizing 91-84 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night.
The Bucks usually are a panacea for whatever ails the Heat, with Miami entering 60-34 all time against Milwaukee.
But this is what happens when Dwyane Wade misses a second consecutive game with a hamstring injury, when Chris Bosh shoots 2 for 17 and Luol Deng 3 for 11 on 10-point nights for each of them, and when the Heat misses nine of 22 free throws.
“I have to play better … especially with [Wade] out, if we expect to win,” Bosh said. “I guess it’s on me. This team is relying on me to do a better job. And I have to make sure I do a better job.”
Ahead by as many as 12 in the first half, Miami was outscored 53-38 and shot 32 percent after intermission, finishing the game with barely more assists (19) than turnovers (17).
“We haven’t done well on offense,” Bosh said. “We don’t get timely stops on defense. We’re not making plays, especially at home.”
And so, within a span of five days, the Heat (5-5) has dropped home games to two teams expected to be in the lottery (Indiana and Milwaukee) and been exploited defensively in Atlanta.
Keep in mind that the last two losses came without Wade, who remains day-to-day with a hamstring injury, and with Josh McRoberts (foot blister) and Danny Granger (hamstring) also sidelined. So it’s no time to rush to judgment about this team. But this past week was discouraging.
Down by eight at halftime, the Bucks unleashed a 19-6 run to start the third and outscored Miami, 26-13, in the quarter to lead 64-59 heading to the fourth. The lead swelled to 11 with 8:40 left in the fourth.
Shawne Williams kept the Heat afloat with 11 fourth-quarter points, but Bucks guard Brandon Knight, the Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest alum, hit three huge threes within the final 3:12, the final one with 47 seconds left to push the Bucks’ lead to eight.
“They really stepped up the defensive pressure and it was tough for us to get into any type of rhythm,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They got us into some awkward possessions.”
Milwaukee outscored the Heat 46-24 in the paint.
“We weren’t sharp,” Deng said. “They did a good job taking us out of our stuff. We’ve got to see what we do great and stick to that.”
First 3 games
Last 7 games
Bosh, who had five blocked shots, is now mired in a 12 for 49 swoon over his past three games. He’s in a 3 for 22 slump on three-pointers.
“It’s frustrating; the past couple games the shot hasn’t fallen,” he said. “I’m still trying to find my rhythm everywhere. Most of the shots were good shots, shots I usually make.”
Asked whether he’s pressing, Bosh said, “Yeah. I’m not going to say, ‘Sit back and the game will come to you.’ I’m going to press until I get over the hump. I figured it would return tonight.”
Spoelstra said of Bosh: “We need to do a better job of getting him in places where he can feel comfortable.”
On a night Miami badly needed more from Deng, he shot 0 for 4 in the second half. He’s now 38 for 61 in Heat wins but 16 for 51 in Heat losses.
“So far, there are games I’m great and games I’m so bad,” Deng said. “There are times I find myself thinking too much.”
Heat guard Mario Chalmers did his part, starting in place of Wade and chipping in 18 points and five assists in the defeat.
Monday: Heat at Nets
When/where: 7:30 p.m.; Barclays Center; Brooklyn.
TV/radio: Sun Sports; WAXY 104.3 FM, 790 AM and WAQI 710 AM (Spanish).
Series: Heat leads 59-45.
Noteworthy: The Nets won all four regular-season meetings last year, but the Heat ousted the Nets, 4-1, in the second round of the playoffs. … Brooklyn is 4-5 after losing 97-87 in Portland on Saturday. … Joe Johnson entered Sunday ranked 25th in the league in scoring at 19.1 per game and Deron Williams is 27th at 18.7.