Miami Heat

Miami Heat is about to enter into playoff-panic mode

“We have to figure out at some time during these last games to put a streak together at some point,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said.
“We have to figure out at some time during these last games to put a streak together at some point,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. AP

A few days ago, Dwyane Wade cautioned that three consecutive losses could be devastating for his team’s playoff chances.

Wade reckoned that if a team in as tight a playoff race as the Heat were to drop three in a row this time of year, there might be no digging out of that hole. At the time, Wade was talking about an important game against the Brooklyn Nets. It was a game Wade thought the Heat needed to win at all costs. Between now and the end of the regular season, the Heat is going to play in a lot of those high-stakes games.

Playoff-panic mode begins for the Heat on Sunday when it meets to practice for Monday’s home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Led by former Heat star LeBron James, the Cavs arguably are playing the best basketball in the NBA with only a few more weeks remaining until the playoffs. After playing the Cavaliers, the Heat plays host to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.

In other words, after Friday’s loss to the Toronto Raptors, the Heat is in very real danger of losing three in a row.

“You’re not going to win every game,” Wade said after losing to the Raptors 102-92 at Air Canada Centre. “We would love to win 18 in a row, but you’re not going to win them all, and the only thing you want is for your team to give yourself an opportunity to win, and especially on the road.”

The Heat didn’t do that, committing 20 turnovers and shooting 5 of 23 from three-point range. Now the Heat is in ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings and trailed the Charlotte Hornets by a half game on Saturday. The Heat has swapped wins for losses over the past week and half, and hasn’t lost two in a row since falling in New Orleans to the Pelicans on Feb. 27 and then losing to the Atlanta Hawks in Miami the following night.

That’s the semi-good news, which has kept the Heat in the postseason conversation since Chris Bosh went down with a season-ending medical condition. The bad news is that the Heat hasn’t won two in a row since the beginning of March and hasn’t recorded a quality win — that’s a victory against a team currently projected to be in the playoffs — since a Jan. 25 victory against the Chicago Bulls.

“That’s the team we’ve been. But obviously if we want to make the playoffs, we can’t be that team,” Wade said. “We have to figure out at some time during these last games to put a streak together at some point. And we’ve got a challenging schedule coming up with tough games, so we’re going to have to do more than win one and lose one, and try to put a streak together.”

That win against the Bulls in Chicago was the breakout game for Hassan Whiteside, but the team hasn’t been able to jell since then. Injuries to key players and a week of technical fouls and ejections by Whiteside stunted the Heat’s growth after it acquired point guard Goran Dragic in a trade. Desperation is now setting in, and it comes at a bad time in the season.

After playing the Denver Nuggets on Friday, the Heat leaves for a tough four-game road trip — Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, Boston and Atlanta — before returning home to face the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs.

“When we play the game we can play, we can beat anybody,” Wade said. “It’s not about that. It’s not about a tough opponent. It’s just about us playing our game, and playing it to the ‘T.’ … We don’t have as much firepower as we had in the past to always come back from that.”

Wade had 25 points against the Raptors, and has scored at least 25 points in each of the Heat’s past four games. He said after the loss that he should have shot more. Expect a dedicated performance Monday against James.

“I should have been more aggressive,” Wade sad. “I’m mad at myself for that. I wasn’t as aggressive as I needed to be.”

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