Miami Heat

Heat sink 18 threes, get season-high 25 from Tyler Johnson, but fall to Spurs anyway

Dion Waiters talks after Miami Heat’s loss to San Antonio Spurs

The Miami Heat fall to the San Antonio Spurs 117-105.
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The Miami Heat fall to the San Antonio Spurs 117-105.

Making a boatload of three-pointers has traditionally meant success for the Miami Heat over the years. Wednesday night was one of the few times it didn’t.

Despite making 18 from beyond the arc and getting a season-high 25 points from Tyler Johnson, the San Antonio Spurs still managed to rally past the Heat in the second half and beat them with relative ease 117-105 at the AT&T Center.

The Heat fell to 13-3 in its history when it makes at least 16 three-pointers in a game, something it has now done twice this season.

What helped the Spurs were 19 Heat turnovers, which led directly to 21 points. Miami, which came in averaging 16.2 turnovers per game, is now 3-5 when it coughs it up at least 19 times.

“That’s what they do. They just get you scrambling,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Spurs, who beat Miami (11-13) for the ninth consecutive time. “The way they move the ball is exceptional – the definition of good to great. And their pace, even though they don’t play typically a fast pace in terms of scoring, but their halfcourt pace is up there with anybody in the league, just how hard they run their cuts and how hard they put the ball on the floor to create gaps, two-on-the-ball, even, just on drive-and-kick opportunities. And they move it to a wide-open shooter. So you have to absolutely credit them for that.

“There’s some good things we did, certainly offensively. It was one of our better at least coherent games, other than the turnovers. And we just have to get our hands around that and figure out how to get those numbers down. But we had some coherent actions, to get the ball where we wanted it to go, the right people handling in certain spots. That was a little bit of an improvement.”

Johnson was one of those improvements. Shooting 36.2 percent for the season coming in, he made 9 of 12 from the field including a career-high five three-pointers. Dion Waiters was equally hot with 22 points on 8 of 12 shooting from the field and Josh Richardson had 19 on 7 of 10 shooting. But the Spurs, led by LaMarcus Aldridge’s 18 points, had eight double-figure scorers and were just too much.

“The ball went in the basket. That simple. The ball went in,” said Johnson, whose previous season-high of 23 points came against the Spurs back in a 17-point Heat loss at home on Oct. 25. “They’re the same shots I’ve been shooting they just haven’t been going in until today.”

Spoelstra unveiled a new starting lineup with Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson replacing Justise Winslow, who had made 15 consecutive starts, and rookie Bam Adebayo, who had made three straight starts in place of the injured Hassan Whiteside.

The new starting lineup, which included Goran Dragic, Waiters and Richardson, came in having played a total of 13 minutes together, but had an offensive rating of 118 – significantly better than the other starting lineup with Winslow and Adebayo which combined for an 85.1 rating in 40 minutes.

Miami came out firing from long distance right away with all five of the Heat’s first five shots from three-point range. The Heat had 19 assists on its first 23 buckets, showing much better ball movement. But the Spurs even did that better than Heat, finishing with 30 assists on its 46 buckets. Miami finished with 28 assists on its 38 field goals.

“We had 30 assists last game, too, I believe,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “That’s always wonderful, and then you sit down and you start feeling good about it you realize that Golden State does that every night. And you go ‘Okay, we got a way to go, don’t get too excited.”

James Johnson scored nine points to lead Miami in the first quarter, but couldn’t stay on the court thereafter because of foul trouble. He drew his fourth foul on San Antonio’s first possession of the second half. Johnson finished with nine points, three rebounds, six assists a team-leading four turnovers in 24 minutes.

“We were trying to be aggressive and we [couldn’t],” Waiters said. “They were getting some calls that went their way. It’s tough when you’re trying to be aggressive like we were and we’re not allowed. It gets guys in a rhythm and gets them to the line. We do the same exact thing and we’re not getting calls. We know we’re not going to get calls against an organization like that in their own building. I make no excuses. We just got to keep playing and look forward to the next game.”

Dragic finished 3 of 11 from the field for eight points (he was a team-worst minus 26 in plus/minus) and Winslow was 2 of 9 from the field for five points.

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