The encore to Hassan Whiteside’s triple-dozen performance was one of the season’s biggest home-court letdowns for the Heat.
Riding the momentum of arguably its most significant victory of the season, the Heat returned home on Tuesday and lost to the Milwaukee Bucks 109-102 at AmericanAirlines Arena. Luol Deng and Chris Andersen missed the important game with injuries, and then to make the night worse Dwyane Wade injured his leg in the third quarter.
The Heat is now 8-14 at home this season and 0-3 overall to the Bucks (22-22), who now hold a tiebreaker over the Heat (20-25) in the event both teams finish the regular season with identical records.
In the morning, Wade noted how much he wanted the victory against the Bucks. Then, with 9:34 remaining in the third quarter, Wade pulled up with another leg injury. Wade missed significant time last season with a strained right hamstring, and the Heat’s shooting guard already missed games during two separate stretches early this season due to left hamstring strains.
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“It is a right hamstring sprain, but don’t know how bad it is at this point right now,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The Heat trailed 59-58 when Wade left the game but increased its lead to 10 points over the next six minutes. A three-pointer by Norris Cole, who replaced Wade after his injury, put the Heat ahead 78-68 with 3:54 to play in the third quarter. The Heat didn’t hold the lead for long, however, and was outscored 34-13 over the next 12 minutes.
Wade left the arena without speaking to reporters. He had 12 points before the injury. Switching roles from starting point guard to primary shooting guard in the middle of the game, Chalmers finished with 21 points and eight assists.
“I don’t know what caused it,” Spoelstra said of Wade’s injury. “It was just a defensive play he was chasing off a screen, and a normal play that was a deflection that went out of bounds.”
Wade’s injury was the third bit of bad news the Heat received Tuesday. Before the game, Deng was scratched from the starting lineup with a calf injury he sustained during Sunday’s victory in Chicago. Chris Andersen also couldn’t play after injuring his elbow and back against the Bulls.
“That’s where we are right now with this group,” Spoelstra said of the injuries. “Certainly, it’s frustrating for us.”
News of Deng’s injury before the game hit the team hard. Deng had been playing exceptional defense over the past few weeks before the injury in Chicago.
“Everyone kind of dropped on the ground like, ‘Say it’s not so,’” Spoelstra said when Deng informed his teammates he couldn’t play. “But the guys have the right attitude. Nobody is feeling sorry for themselves. We are still in a position where we can do something.”
Just not on Tuesday against a team the Heat now trails by three games in the loss column. The score was tied at 82 entering the final period, but the Heat scored just nine points in fourth quarter’s first six minutes.
“It’s just so disappointing and difficult not to be at full strength or at least 75 percent, and we don’t have room for injury,” said Chris Bosh, who had 26 points and four rebounds. “We have so many new guys, and we’re trying to jell together, and it takes a whole season to do that, but we haven’t even had a steady lineup to work with.
“So nobody’s getting in rhythm. Nobody’s getting used to anything. And we’re dealing with the consequences.”
In addition to the physical injuries, Bosh said the team is also mentally “beat up” because of all the setbacks.
“If you just look at everything, the physical is obviously matching the mental,” Bosh said. “Whether that’s our fault or not, I can’t say. I don’t know what it is, man. I mean, guys are going down. I seen [Wade] walk off early in the second half and I’m like, ‘Ah, next possession.’
“That’s difficult. That’s not easy to do. I guess this is practice for mental toughness. I’ll be able to write a book. I’ll probably have it coming out next fall with a bunch of good pointers. It’ll be free.”
The loss overshadowed another solid performance by Whiteside, who had 14 points, 13 rebounds and 12 blocks on Sunday in Chicago. Whiteside struggled in the first half against the Bucks, but finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds in over 36 minutes.