The Miami Heat sent a letter to season ticket holders on the eve of their renewal deadline Tuesday asking them to invest in the future, sending them palm tree seeds as an added touch.
Two of those seeds worth a combined $148 million – Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson – came through with big performances against the Orlando Magic.
Johnson posted a career-high with 32 points, the most ever by a Heat player off the bench, and Whiteside, with a bandage over his right eye to stop the bleeding from an elbow he took early in the game, matched a career-high with 32 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in a career-high 47 minutes.
But it wasn’t enough as the Magic pulled out a 136-130 double-overtime victory at AmericanAirlines Arena, handing the Heat its third loss in a row and dropping Miami’s ugly home record to 4-11.
“That was the most disappointing loss of the season because we had so many chances to win that game,” said Whiteside, who was unhappy about only getting three shot attempts in overtime. “We needed a couple key shots at the end and a couple key stops at the end and a couple key rebounds at the end. Sometimes the cookie crumbles like that. It was a heartbreaker man. I'm not even going to lie to you all. That one hurt.”
At the end of regulation and at the end of the first overtime missed free throws came back to haunt the Heat (9-20). The worst free throw shooting team in the league started 14 of 16 from the line, but killed itself late from the charity stripe missing six of its last 10 attempts.
Miami led 108-103 with 48.3 seconds to play in regulation after Goran Dragic made his third three-pointer of the night. But after Josh Richardson made only one of two at the line with 10 seconds left, Orlando tied the score at 109 on a Serge Ibaka bank shot with 1.1 seconds to play. Dragic had one more shot at it in regulation but his three-point heave from the corner hit the side of the backboard.
The Heat then squandered a 117-113 lead in the first overtime, missing four of five from the line in the extra period.
“You can’t only win games on one side of the floor,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We had opportunities to get some stops particularly on those side-out of bounds where they scored a couple baskets. We feel that we’ve been building our defense for those moments, to be able to get consecutive stops while you have the lead and go out not being worse than what it was. So it ended up being their scores, quick scores and a free-throw contest from there. It was just too many times doing that.”
Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier each scored 26 points to lead Orlando (13-17). The Magic also got 20 points and nine rebounds from Ibaka and 22 off the bench from Elfrid Payton.
“Our guys are pretty tired,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said. “There’s not a lot of chatter and all that stuff, but it was a good win. We were up for a tough battle.”
Miami led 64-57 at the break. Miami shot a season-best 59 percent over the first two quarters and made 11 of its first 12 free throw attempts. Richardson had a career-high six assists by halftime.
There were 20 lead changes in the first half – one more than previous season-high of 19 for Miami in an entire game. After the Magic went ahead 44-43 on Elfrid Payton’s sixth field goal of the half with 6:38 to play, the Heat went on a 10-0 run to seize control.
But the Magic went on a 12-0 run midway through the fourth quarter and retook the lead 100-97 on a Jodie Meeks three-pointer with 6:39 left in regulation before Miami rallied.
In the end, the Heat just couldn’t hold off the Magic.
“We would love to win – no moral victories,” said Justise Winslow, who finished with 13 points and made a trio of big baskets in overtime. “But I’m proud of the way the guys fought out there. It’s a close game. Close games hurt, but when you leave it all out there, when our guys are out there supporting each other giving it their all, you can live with the result.”
▪ Guard Rodney McGruder, who had started 14 games in a row, missed his first game of the season with a sprained left ankle. McGruder, who initially sprained the ankle in the loss at Atlanta Dec. 7 and played through it, said he aggravated the ankle in a freak accident at Monday’s practice. He said he was only sitting out against the Magic because the Heat training staff was making him rest it.
The rookie’s absence on Tuesday leaves Whiteside as the only player healthy and available for all 29 of the Heat’s games. Udonis Haslem hasn’t missed any games because of injury, but did ask to leave the team when it was Cleveland to go see his son play for St. Thomas Aquinas in the state championship game in person.