The anger finally boiled over late Saturday night, after another uninspired Heat effort that featured entirely too many miscues and entirely too many defensive lapses.
"So I figure I'll be the first one to say 'We suck,'" Chris Bosh declared after the latest demoralizing setback, a 105-95 loss to the Pelicans at Smoothie King Arena.
"This is unacceptable," Bosh added. "If we don't change this, we will be watching the championship from home." He said one problem is "we've been keeping things in" all season. "There's no passion."
LeBron James also made no attempt to conceal his disgust after Miami’s seventh loss in its past 11 games overall, and its 12th defeat against a team with a losing record.
“Too many excuses,” he said. “We’ve got to stop excuses. Guys on the floor need to produce. It’s that simple.”
James did his part (25 points, nine assists, eight rebounds) but didn’t get nearly enough support from many of his teammates on either end of the court.
Too many errors
Playing without Dwyane Wade and Greg Oden on the second night of a back-to-back set, Miami committed too many turnovers (16), had too many defensive breakdowns and couldn’t control rising star Anthony Davis, who blitzed Miami with 30 points and 11 rebounds on 13 for 22 shooting.
For the seventh time in the past 11 games, the Heat allowed a team to shoot at least 49.3 percent. The Pelicans, who entered shooting 45.9 percent for the season, closed at 51.2. Ahead by four points after three quarters, New Orleans scored 29 in the fourth on 12 for 20 shooting.
“The floodgates went open in the second half,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Their guards did a great job breaking us down. We couldn’t keep them out of the paint. This is new territory for us. We all know we have to play much more committed defensively.
“Yes, our locker-room is frustrated, as it should be. We’re not accustomed to these types of standards from the defensive end. We did not defend, did not have that tough, gritty personality.”
No team gives up a higher shooting percentage of corner threes than the Heat, and the Pelicans victimized Miami with several in the second half, including daggers from Anthony Morrow and Luke Babbitt. And keep in mind that this was a New Orleans team missing three of their best shooters: Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday and Ryan Andersen.
There were visible signs of disgust during the game, including James yelling and gesticulating after a Morrow three pushed the Pelicans’ lead to 85-76 with nine minutes left. Spoelstra also appeared particularly animated with his team during an ensuing timeout.
But none of that emotion helped, with the Pelicans extending their lead to 16 soon after.
There were inexcusable defensive breakdowns, including a second-quarter sequence when Morrow somehow scored on a layup on an out-of-bounds play with one second left on the shot clock. (Ray Allen appeared to be the primary defender.)
There were too many second-chance points for the Pelicans (13), too many fast-break points (21 to Miami’s 11) and too many uncontested forays to the basket, many the result of Heat guards being beaten off the dribble.
James gave the Heat a scare when he appeared to roll his ankle after bumping Davis while driving to the basket late in the third quarter. He stayed seated on the court for a short time, writhing in pain, and most Heat players ran onto the floor to check on him during a timeout. But James, seemingly super-human at times, shook it off and stayed in the game.
James, who was 7 for 11 at the time of the injury, closed 10 for 18.
He didn’t have enough help from Bosh, who remained in a scoring slump, with 12 points on 5 for 10 shooting and six rebounds. Bosh entered having shot 3 for 11 (six points) and 4 for 15 (11 points) in his previous two games.
For much of the night, this looked very much like a team that has lost entirely too many games against teams that will be home during the playoffs.
“We can’t relax versus teams we’re supposed to beat,” James said before the game. “Not saying we’re entitled to win, but we don’t focus the whole game.”
James conceded that “this is the toughest season we’ve had since Year One because of everything that comes with trying to repeat. We are the target every single night. We have to find our motivation every single night.”
Michael Beasley, who seemingly lost his rotation spot in the past week with the insertion of Oden into the starting lineup and a renewed role for Udonis Haslem, was summoned off the bench Saturday with Wade and Oden out, and he made the most of it, scoring 16 in 18 minutes, on 8 for 12 shooting.
Whether Beasley resumes getting minutes on nights that everyone is available remains very much in question. With a full roster, Spoelstra had instead opted for Haslem as a 10th man in recent games. Mario Chalmers scored 19 for Miami on a night the Heat shot 50.7 percent.
But defense, not offense, was the major problem on this night, as it has been far too often recently.