The Miami Heat’s run as one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference came to an abrupt end Friday night while the woes on offense for the starting unit continued.
After missing out on an opportunity to climb as high as the No. 3 seed with a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, the Heat slipped back into fifth place in the East with a 103-97 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center.
Miami (29-23) fell behind idle division rival Washington (29-22) and didn’t slip into sixth place in the East because the Hornets beat the Pacers at home. But the Heat, which hasn’t scored in triple digits since its win at Charlotte Jan. 20, hold only a half game lead over Indiana and Milwaukee, who are both 29-24, heading into Saturday’s game in Detroit.
Miami trailed 53-46 after James Johnson made his first basket, a three-pointer, with 11:05 to go in the third quarter. The Sixers (25-24) then went on a 19-0 run as the Heat missed 12 consecutive shots before Goran Dragic hit a layup with five minutes left in the quarter.
Philadelphia expanded its lead to as much as 90-62 on a T.J. McConnell jumper with 11:04 left in the fourth quarter. That’s when the Heat’s second unit, led by Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, Wayne Ellington and Bam Adebayo, went on a 20-1 run to pull withing 91-82 on an Olynyk three-pointer with 5:07 remaining.
Ellington, a Philly native who had 50 family members and friends in attendance, hit a three-pointer with 24 seconds to play to trim Philly’s lead to 101-97. But the Heat, which got the ball back moments later on a Sixers turnover, turned the ball over right back on the ensuing inbounds pass.
In the end, the hole the Heat built early was just too much to overcome.
All-Star point guard Goran Dragic was 4 of 12 shooting for 10 points in 23 minutes and a team-worst minus 22 for the game. Center Hassan Whiteside played only 18 minutes and 17 seconds and finished with four points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Late in the fourth the quarter, the Heat announced Whiteside would not return to action because of an undisclosed illness.
Miami’s starters – Whiteside, Dragic, Johnson, James Johnson and Josh Richardson – combined for 40 points. The Heat’s bench scored 57 points.