Miami Heat

Miami Heat falls to Memphis Grizzlies as losing streak reaches four

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) looks to shoot around Memphis Grizzlies guard Courtney Lee (5) and center Marc Gasol (33) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn.
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) looks to shoot around Memphis Grizzlies guard Courtney Lee (5) and center Marc Gasol (33) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. AP

Chris Bosh slammed the ball against his head in a display of exasperation.

Dwyane Wade just walked off the court laughing and shaking his head.

Even when the Heat did everything right defensively, the Memphis Grizzlies still scored and scored and scored on Sunday at FedEx Forum in their 103-87 victory, but Courtney Lee’s desperation three-pointer from 30 feet seemed especially cruel.

Both Mario Chalmers and Josh McRoberts had their hands on the ball, but neither player could come away with the steal. Instead, the loose ball found Lee, who heaved a prayer toward the rim. It swished the net, of course, because everything goes down against this Heat defense these days.

The Grizzlies shot better than 60 percent until the final two minutes of the game, settling for 58.9 percent from the field. It was the highest shooting percentage of the season for Memphis (16-4), and the high-water mark came on a night star center Marc Gasol was 1 of 6 from the field for two points.

“They didn’t even hurt us in our normal game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s what’s disappointing. It was all the miscellaneous actions.”

The Heat (9-11) has lost five of its past six games, including four in a row, and in each of those losses opponents shot at least 54 percent from the field.

“It’s open season,” said Bosh, who had 12 points and two rebounds. “Until we take more pride in that as a unit, it’s just not going to happen. We’ve got to individually guard the ball with passion, and everything else with follow.”

On an off night for Gasol, five of his teammates scored in double figures with the most surprising offensive contribution coming from Jon Leuer off the bench. The 6-10 reserve was averaging less than six points per game for the season. He had 20 points against the Heat, going 7 of 12 from the field, 2 of 3 from three-point range and 4 of 4 from the free-throw line.

Leuer also had 12 rebounds in 24 minutes and turned in the highlight of the game with a double-pump dunk in transition to give the Grizzlies a 17-point lead with 4:01 left in the game. It was the Grizzlies’ largest lead of the night.

Wade led the Heat with 25 points and six assists, but he also had five turnovers. Wade, who was 11 of 20 from the field, has scored at least 20 points in eight consecutive games in which he has appeared. Bosh’s streak of games with at least 20 points ended at eight.

A steal by Chalmers and a breakaway dunk by Wade cut the Grizzlies’ lead to three points with 10 minutes left in the game. From there, the Heat scored just eight points. Miami was 5 of 18 from the field in the final period.

“We just couldn’t get those stops to get us over the hump and possibly get us a miscellaneous easy one,” Spoelstra said. “Every time they needed to make a momentum-swinging shot, they did.

“We’ll get our breakthrough at some point with those moments of truth. We’re banging on the door for it, but we haven’t been able to respond and get over the top.”

A three-pointer by reserve forward Tayshaun Prince gave the Grizzlies a nine-point lead with 8:29 to play, and Leuer’s second three-pointer of the game put Memphis ahead 93-81 with 6:32 left. The Grizzlies shot 8 of 13 from three-point range and were 9 of 11 from distance at one point in the fourth quarter.

“It’s a work in progress,” Wade said of the Heat’s defense. “The ball is going in for the other team at a rapid pace. That’s all I can say. Improvements are being made. It’s just not as fast as we all want them to be.”

The Heat’s offense played well most of the game. Led by Wade, the team shot 56.4 percent in the first half. McRoberts was a bright spot. A virus is running through the team during this five-game road trip, and McRoberts had the bug Sunday. He started despite the illness and scored 14 points, going 6 of 8 from the field. He was 2 of 3 from three-point range and had five assists and five rebounds.

Chalmers scored 12 points off the bench, but the Heat’s other guards — starter Norris Cole and backup point guard Shabazz Napier — combined to go 2 of 7 from the field for four points. Luol Deng had 13 points and five rebounds playing with a bruised hand.

“I thought tonight we did a good job of coming in with a game plan defensively of what we wanted to do, but they countered it and made a lot of outside shots, tough shots, timely shots,” Wade said. “They’re a good team, and they just beat us tonight.”

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