Before this season, the team formerly known as the Charlotte Bobcats went 16 games without a victory against the Miami Heat.
It was a streak of domination that typified the Heat’s lordship over the bad teams of the Eastern Conference.
The Heat padded its record during the LeBron James years with victory after victory against the sub-.500 lot of its own conference. What’s changed this season about that equation isn’t that the dregs of the Eastern Conference are any better.
No, the Heat is just so much worse.
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On the Wednesday night at Time Warner Cable Arena, the newly re-branded Charlotte Hornets went the final seven minutes of the game without a field goal and defeated the Heat 78-76. That sounds impossible, but this basketball game played in Charlotte was impossibly ugly. The Heat (18-24) outscored the Hornets 21-13 in the fourth quarter and somehow lost.
“To be fair, you have two very good defensive teams, so it’s low 30 percent for both teams, both teams stepped up their defensive pressure at the end and I actually liked some of those looks,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
That’s all coach-speak gobbledygook for “there’s nothing really to say. It was bad.”
For example, that ill-conceived three-point attempt by Mario Chalmers at the buzzer.
With a relatively simple put-back to tie the game staring him in the face, Chalmers backpedaled after an offensive rebound and attempted a three-pointer for the win. He missed it badly and the Heat lost its second game in a row despite holding the Hornets to 3-of-13 shooting (23.1 percent) in the fourth quarter.
Chalmers’ mind-numbing miss came moments after Chris Bosh missed a three-point attempt for the win with two seconds left.
“He’s not big, so he tried to get out and get open, and I’m not sure if he knew exactly how much time was left,” Dwyane Wade said of Chalmers, “but we got the play we wanted and I think down the stretch we got a lot of shots that we wanted. It just didn’t go in for us.”
The Heat missed five consecutive shots down the stretch, or enough to give away the lead against a Charlotte team that didn’t really seem to want it.
The Hornets led 71-66 when Al Jefferson made a nine-foot jumper with seven minutes remaining in the game, but Charlotte finished the game 0 of 6 from the field.
The Hornets (18-25) made 7 of 12 free throws in the final five minutes of the game to rally from a five-point deficit.
Kemba Walker made a pair of free throws with 23 seconds left to give the Hornets a three-point lead. Bosh then made a driving layup with 15.3 seconds remaining to cut it to 77-76. Walker made one of two free-throw attempts to set up the Heat’s final possession.
Following a timeout, Wade created an open look from three-point range for Bosh, who missed a shot for the win with two seconds left. The rebound fell to Chalmers, who backpedaled for the three-point line and heaved up a hurried shot that glanced off the rim.
“[Chalmers] had a chance to make a play but came up short,” Spoelstra said.
The Heat now leads the Hornets by half-game for seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. Charlotte has won eight of its last nine games.
“I ain’t worried about all that,” Wade said of the Heat’s place in the standings. “I don’t care. I’m just trying to win ball games at this point. We’re so many games under .500, that don’t even matter to me.
“We’re just trying to win games, and we’ll let the end of the year figure it all out.”