Barry Jackson

Heat leads entering fourth but loses to Westbrook-led Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) drives against Miami Heat guard Rodney McGruder (17) during the first half of Friday’s game.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) drives against Miami Heat guard Rodney McGruder (17) during the first half of Friday’s game. AP

OKLAHOMA CITY – Five takeaways from the Heat’s 105-99 loss to the Thunder on Friday at Chesapeake Energy Arena: 

• The Heat is now 0-11 against teams in the top six of the Western Conference, 39-23 against everybody else.

And this one was particularly frustrating, because Miami led 66-64 after three and caught the Thunder on a night that Paul George and Carmelo Anthony were off their games.

The Heat ultimately couldn’t overcome 39 percent shooting, some ill-timed turnovers, too many missed shots from close range and a brilliant 17-point fourth quarter from defending league MVP Russell Westbrook.

If there was a night where OKC was vulnerable, this was it, with George (12 points) shooting 3 for 16 and Anthony (six points) finishing 2 for 8.

At one point, those two and Westbrook were a combined 7 for 28 before Westbrook erupted in the fourth.

Westbrook rebounded from a 3 for 9 start with the 17-point fourth quarter, including a huge three and a layup (goaltending was called) in aan 18-second span that stretched the Thunder’s one-point lead to six with under two minutes left.

“He's going to put his fingerprints on the game, somehow, some way,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And you just have to find a way to overcome it. [On the three-pointer late], four seconds on the [shot] clock, I believe it was a one-point game. It appears Paul George, he and [Josh Richardson] got into some kind of tangle and they both end up on the ground and then Westbrook is left open for a wide-open three and that just gave them a little bit more air room and space to finish out the game."

Then Westbrook made a perfect pass to a cutting Steven Adams for a dunk that put the Thunder ahead 99-95 with 43 seconds left.

James Johnson played well, with 23 points, including 14 points in the fourth quarter. Goran Dragic scored 20 on 7 for 16 shooting. Justise Winslow (14 points, 5 for 10 shooting) also did good work. Wayne Ellington scored 14 points, hitting four threes.

But Josh Richardson shot 2 for 10 on four-point night

And here’s a jarring stat: While Miami was a solid 13 for 30 on three-pointers, Miami shot just 21 for 57 on twos.

The Heat shot just 5 of 19 shots in the paint, missing a bunch of makeable shots.

"They have speed and quickness and length,” Spoelstra said when asked about the Heat’s offensive struggles in the basket area Friday. “So your window close a little bit faster. We have the ability to finish layups. That might have been the difference, their ability to make layups consistently throughout the course of the game where we missed some point-blank ones.”

Defensively, Miami allowed 41 points in the fourth quarter and Johnson said “we can never allow 40 plus points in a quarter. That's not Miami Heat basketball.”

Dwyane Wade returned after missing five games with a strained hamstring and swished his first shot, a 22-footer, and finished with seven points on 3 for 9 shooting

Spoelstra said he would play Wade less than his 22 minutes per game average and Wade played 20.

Wade became the 31st player in NBA history to score 22,000 points.

• Hassan Whiteside’s absence – which extended to a seventh consecutive game – is particularly hurtful on nights Miami faces a center particularly adept at crashing the boards.

Steven Adams, who entered 13th in the league in rebounding at 8.7 per game, not only pounded the glass with 12 boards but also scored 24.

“Steven Adams is a handful and he protects the paint and he’s a good shot blocker,” Wade said.

Rookie center Bam Adebayo struggled in the first half, failing to haul in a rebound and missing his two shots in nine first-half minutes. He was more active in the second half, hauling in seven rebounds, but went scoreless for the night on 0 for 5 shooting.

“Yes, much better, much better,” Spoelstra said of Adebayo’s second half. “I think it took him a little bit to adjust. And that's why we love Bam so much. As a young player, he's never played against somebody like Steven Adams, of that size. He was prepared going into it, but Adams was getting the best of him, and then a lot of those 50-50 opportunities, Bam really brought a different physically the second half, but also we were able to run some offense with him, which helped.”

But Adams victimized him with some polished moves in the paint.

“Hats off to Steven Adams,” James Johnson said. “He played a great game. He's a tough guy to box out, rebound and he really saved them some possessions and got them a lot of second chance points.”

The Thunder’s 51-41 rebounding margin wasn’t a shock, considering Whiteside’s absence.

The Heat entered 14th in the NBA in rebounding differential at plus 48. But the Thunder entered third at plus 221, behind only Philadelphia and Denver.

• You can hold Westbrook in check part of the night but usually not the entire night.

Westbrook began the night by drawing two fouls in 23 seconds on Tyler Johnson, who was immediately replaced by Rodney McGruder.

Westbrook took only four shots in the first half, making two and going to the half with six points, seven rebounds and three assists.

But Westbrook scored 23 in the second half (7 of 11 shooting) and was the difference in the game. Along with his 29 points, he had 13 rebounds and eight assists.

“A player like that, he’s going to continue to keep going, he’s going to figure it out,” Wade said. “He was making shots, and there’s only so much you can do. He’s still the league MVP because no one else got it yet.”

Miami usually had multiple defenders waiting on Westbrook when the Thunder was in transition – one reason why the Thunder scored only seven points off 11 Heat turnovers.

Johnson, McGruder, Richardson and Dragic all took turns defending him.

• The Heat is now the most prolific three-point shooting team in franchise history.

Miami hit its 809th three of the season in the second quarter, surpassing the record set last season for most threes in a season.

Dragic became the fourth Heat player to hit 100 threes, joining Ellington, Richardson and Tyler Johnson.

The only other time in franchise history a Heat team had four players with at least 100 threes made during the same season was 2012-2013, when Ray Allen (139), Shane Battier (136), Mario Chalmers (123) and LeBron James (103) did it.

Ellington hit four of six three-pointers, leaving him with 205 for the season, surpassing Tim Hardaway’s 203 for second on the Heat’s all-time single season list.

Damon Jones holds the Heat record with 225 three-pointers in 2004-05.

• Winning Sunday at Indiana is critical if the Heat is going to move higher than seventh in the East.

But it could be problematic if the Heat finishes sixth, because that could mean a first-round matchup with Cleveland, which is suddenly playing very well.

With the loss, the seventh-seeded Heat’s lead over No. 8 Milwaukee shrunk to half a game. The Bucks beat Chicago.

Miami (39-34) is 1.5 games behind No. 6 Washington (which lost to Denver) and three behind No. 5 Indiana, which beat the Clippers.

Philadelphia, which has an easy remaining schedule, sits in fourth, three games ahead of the Heat.

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