The opportunity was certainly there for the Heat on Sunday, with defending NBA MVP Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka sidelined for the Thunder, and the league’s leading scorer, Russell Westbrook, scoring 16 points below his average.
But ultimately, there too many Heat turnovers (leading to 30 Thunder points), too many missed Miami three-pointers (15 in 18 attempts), too much Enes Kanter (no kidding) and not nearly enough offensive punch in this ugly 93-75 Heat loss at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“They played at a playoff level. We played at a regular-season level,” Dwyane Wade said.
With 27 points, Kanter scored 14 more than any other Heat player, despite playing with a sprained ankle.
And despite shooting 5 for 16, Westbrook still produced his 10th triple double of the season, with 12 points, 17 assists (the most by a Heat opponent this season), 10 rebounds and four steals.
Down by eight after three, the Heat wilted, blitzed by a 17-7 run to open the fourth. Miami shot just 39.5 percent from the field, committed 19 turnovers and was beaten up on the boards, 52-40.
“You had two teams in urgent situations,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They played like it. We didn’t.”
And so Miami squandered a chance to climb within a half game of Milwaukee for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Miami, which remains seventh in the East, will enter Tuesday’s game against the Bucks trailing them by 1.5 games.
Sunday marked the first time since the acquisition of Goran Dragic, and the first time since Feb. 6 against San Antonio, that Miami failed to reach 90 points, ending a streak of 18 consecutive games (11th-longest in team history).
It was quite a comedown after the Heat averaged 107.3 points and shot 50 percent from the field in each of its three consecutive wins last week.
“Nobody on our team had a good offensive game,” Dragic said. “They were a step quicker than us. We were late on everything. They worked to deny passes.”
You can blame the horrific three-point shooting, but that was just part of it.
Wade scored eight points in the first six minutes, opening 4 for 4 from the field, but shot just 2 for 11 with the rest of the way, closing with 12 points. Keep in mind that Wade had topped 20 points in his previous eight games.
There wasn’t enough from Luol Deng (six points) or Dragic (12).
What’s more, the Heat’s bench shot a combined 11 for 35, with Mario Chalmers finishing 4 for 14 and Henry Walker 0 for 6.
Hassan Whiteside, who had a team-high 13 points along with six rebounds, was again slowed by foul trouble.
He left with his fourth foul with 10:22 left in the third quarter and didn’t return until 10:12 remained in the game. He had no points or rebounds in eight second-half minutes before fouling out with 3:32 left.
“It was a whole bunch of phantom calls, mostly against me,” Whiteside said. “Anytime you get in foul trouble and they’re calling a lot of questionable calls on you, it’s tough to get in rhythm.”
The Thunder outscored the Heat by only one point with Whiteside on the bench for that long second-half stretch, but Wade said: “When bigs are so important, not to have Hassan hurt.”
The Heat played two natural power rotation players for much of the game but still couldn’t slow Kanter or Steven Adams (10 points, 10 rebounds). Kanter had a game-high 12 rebounds and scored more points in the first quarter (15) than any Heat player scored in the entire game.
“Adams was out there trying to do things to mess with me for no reason,” Whiteside said. “They were trying to get me off my game.”
The Thunder’s defense was disruptive throughout, and Oklahoma City outscored the Heat by 18 points off turnovers. Chalmers committed four turnovers, Wade and Michael Beasley three apiece.
“If it was only played in the halfcourt, it probably would have been pretty even,” Spoelstra said. “They sped us up with their defense, got us into tough possessions.”
What’s more, Miami missed seven of 15 free throws, with Whiteside closing three for eight from the line.
For much of the season, the Heat was a better team on the road than at home. That’s no longer the case.
Miami has now lost eight of its past 10 on the road and is 15-19 away from AmericanAirlines Arena, compared with 17-18 at home.
“We can’t play with this energy, effort and focus on the road,” Wade said.