Mercifully, the Heat’s season of suffering soon will be over.
The Heat needed a victory on Saturday night to remain in the playoff race, but lost to the Toronto Raptors 107-104 at AmericanAirlines Arena. It was the Heat’s first loss to the Raptors at home since 2008, which was also the last season the Heat failed to make the playoffs.
It was a dagger of a three-pointer from Raptors Sixth Man Lou Williams that finally did in the Heat. His shot gave Toronto a five-point lead with 31 seconds to go. As Heat fans filed out of the depressed arena, a vocal group of Raptors’ supporters chanted about their team’s upcoming playoff berth. The victory for Toronto clinched home-court advantage for the first round.
“Lou Williams got hot,” said Heat center Hassan Whiteside. “He hit some tough fade-away three-pointers. Any other coach would say they are bad shots, but for him that’s pretty much his routine.”
Mathematically, the Heat (35-45) could still find its way into the playoffs, but it’s going to take a miracle at this point, or maybe something bigger and more unlikely than that. To make the playoffs at this point, the Heat will need to win its remaining two games while the Nets, Celtics and Indiana Pacers all lose their remaining three games.
It might be official for the Heat as soon as Sunday evening if the Nets and Celtics win games.
“This is not a place I’m used to being at all,” said Dwyane Wade, who finished with 30 points.
Williams, who will be a free agent this summer, had 29 points off the bench for the Raptors (48-32), including 17 points in the second quarter. He went 9 of 18 from the field, 4 of 7 from three-point range and 7 of 7 from the free-throw line. His layup and then a three-point play by Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan gave Toronto a five-point lead with 1:21 to play. The Heat still had a pulse when DeRozan inexplicably fouled Wade in the act of shooting a three-pointer, but Wade missed one of his attempts and teammate Luol Deng went 1 of 2 from the free-throw line on the Heat’s next possession.
As a team, the Heat went 24 of 44 from the free-throw line. Whiteside, playing with an injured right hand, was 4 of 16 from the line. He finished with 16 points and 18 rebounds.
“It’s tough because there’s so much padding in there, you can’t feel the ball,” said Whiteside, who has played with his right hand wrapped ever since slicing it on the rim more than two weeks ago. “You feel like you’re shooting it too far or too short.”
It was all platitudes after the game from Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who as chief mechanic of this lemon of a season rebuilt the transmission about five times, but then watched his team run out of gas within sight of the finish line.
“You want to play for something, and our group has been fighting for this extremely hard and rebuilding on the fly and that’s ultimately what you want from this profession,” Spoelstra said.
Wade went 9 of 20 from the field and 11 of 14 from the free-throw line in the Heat’s penultimate home game of the season. He also had six rebounds and five assists in 34 minutes. Goran Dragic had 22 points. Acquiring Dragic in a trade and signing Whiteside will end up being the highlights of this season for the Heat, but Spoelstra didn’t want to acknowledge those small victories after the game.
“I’m not talking about our obituary or next season yet,” Spoelstra said.
Three-pointers by Chris Andersen and Dwyane Wade kept the Heat in the game midway through the fourth quarter when the Raptors made their run.
Andersen’s three-pointer gave the Heat an 84-79 lead with 10:35 left in the game. It was just the 11th three-pointer of his career, but fourth of the season. Raptors forward Patrick Patterson answered with a three-pointer to cut the Heat’s lead to two points, and then Patterson was fouled by Mario Chalmers in the act of shooting a three-pointer with 9:03 remaining in the game.
Patterson made all three attempts to put the Raptors ahead 85-84. Following an air ball in the lane by Heat reserve Tyler Johnson, Toronto then went ahead by four on a three-pointer by guard Greivis Vasquez.
A put-back by Chuck Hayes completed the 11-0 run for the Raptors.
“It went so fast,” Spoelstra said. “We felt like we were making some progress. We couldn’t get the stops.”