While the Heat closes in on the longest 100-point scoring streak in franchise history, the defense — the foundation of this franchise — has suddenly derailed.
Two nights after Miami relinquished 117 points in a loss to Philadelphia, the Orlando Magic erupted for 29 points in the fourth quarter of a 116-107 win at AmericanAirlines Arena.
And so for Miami, the joy of a 13-game winning streak has been replaced by the angst of a two-game losing streak against the 76ers and Magic, two opponents well below .500.
Afterward, the Heat’s starting guards made abundantly clear their displeasure with Miami’s defense.
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“Our defense was bad,” said Goran Dragic, who scored 22 points. “That’s not our identity. That’s not what we’re known for. You can’t win games like that. Today was too many open shots. We need to fix things. It shouldn’t be like that.
“We can’t win games only on offense. We’re not talented enough [to do that]. We need to guard.”
Meanwhile, Dion Waiters implored teammates to do their job.
“You’ve got to help other guys,” said Waiters, who scored 23 points after missing the previous three games with an ankle injury. “Five people have got to help everyone out there. Simple as that. It’s not about stopping guys individually. You need everybody on a string.”
Miami, which entered the fourth tied at 87, scored just five points during a 6:27 stretch of the fourth quarter, during which Orlando turned a four-point deficit into a seven-point lead.
And when the Heat finally righted itself offensively late, it couldn’t get a stop, with the Magic’s Evan Fournier producing two big baskets, including a three-pointer, after Miami twice closed to within three in the final 1:42.
Fournier scored a game-high 24, with Orlando guard Elfrid Payton adding 20 and Serge Ibaka 17.
“We are a lunch pail hard-hat team,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I wish there was another way we could win. That’s just not the formula for this group.
“It’s not a successful formula for us to give up 116 points. There were pockets of great energy [defensively]. There were too many pockets we didn’t play to our identity with great effort, physicality.”
The Heat, which was outrebounded 52-37, shot 6 for 21 in the fourth after shooting 53.2 percent through three quarters.
Dragic shot 1 for 5 in the fourth, Waiters 1 for 4.
Waiters, who shot 10 for 19 overall, had six assists but also six turnovers in 34 minutes. He said his ankle is still sore and he needs the rest during the All-Star break, which begins for the Heat after Wednesday’s game in Houston.
“Dion played more minutes than I probably anticipated playing him,” Spoelstra said.
Eyebrows were raised when Hassan Whiteside — who had 12 points, 19 rebounds and two blocks — was lifted 2:45 into the game with the Heat down 10-2. He returned with 2:58 left in the quarter.
Whiteside said Spoelstra “took me out because the guy got a rebound that went over my head. That happens, man. I lead the league in rebounds last time I checked. We talked about it and I came back in.”
Whiteside also noted that he led both teams in rebounds and held Orlando center Nikola Vucevic to 4 for 14 shooting. “I call that good defense,” Whiteside said, with Vucevic finishing with 13 points and 17 rebounds.
“There were crazy bounces out to the three-point line,” he said of rebounds during the game.
Asked about Whiteside being lifted in the first quarter, Spoelstra said: “I thought he played with great energy toward the end and in the second quarter. It wasn’t just a singular player tonight. Don’t read into that.”
James Johnson, who went scoreless in the first half, went off for 15 in the second half. Johnson had scored 20 off the bench in Miami’s previous three games and fell one game short of equaling Chris Gatling’s Heat record for most consecutive 20-point games off the bench.
One streak ended for Miami but another continued.
The Magic snapped the Heat’s eight-game home winning streak, Miami’s longest since winter/spring of 2013, during The Big Three era.
But the Heat reached 100 points for the 13th consecutive game, just one off the franchise record set in 1994.
With Detroit losing in Milwaukee, the Heat (24-32) remained two games back of the Pistons for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Dragic wondered whether winning will be more difficult because of the winning streak.
“Maybe now we have a target on our backs,” Dragic said. “Now everyone will show up to play.”