It proved to be an all-or-nothing three-game trip for the Miami Heat, culminating with Friday night’s 115-90 rout at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center.
Monday there was an early 26-point deficit and futile uphill climb in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
Wednesday, the Heat pushed to a 20-point first-quarter lead against the New Orleans Pelicans and rolled to their most lopsided victory of the season.
But Friday, it was back to an early double-digit hole and eventually another insurmountable deficit.
In the end, a 1-2 trip, down to 25-22, with a three-game homestand to follow, starting Sunday against the Pelicans.
“There’s some days in this league you’re just not going to play well,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There’s some days where you’re just going to get beat. There’s some days you’re just going to get beat convincingly, sometimes. What was disappointing about tonight is it was just a wasted day. We didn’t get better. We don’t have a lot of days to kick down the road like that.”
With Dallas’ Luka Doncic dominant early on the way to 34 points, and with Jimmy Butler stifled by Dallas’ defensive focus on a 12-point night, the Heat ultimately were unable to overcome the Mavericks’ 3-point dominance.
Bam Adebayo added an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double for the Heat, with reserve guard Victor Oladipo closing with 20 points.
The 90 points were the fewest by a Dallas opponent this season.
“We just never were able to have that competitive disposition that we’ve had virtually all season long,” Spoelstra said. “So that’s basically it. I just don’t like as a head coach wasting nights, particularly as we’re trying to gain some rhythm and get our health and get everybody on the same page.”
Five Degrees of Heat from Friday’s game:
1. Early KO: The Heat trailed 31-19 at the end of the first quarter and 60-51 at halftime, after initially going down 16.
The Heat closed within six early in the third, before going into the fourth quarter down 92-67. From there, Dallas pushed its lead to 30, as the starters watched the finish from the bench.
“I don’t think we brought a great motor and level of detail to our offense,” Spoelstra said.
2. Distant view: The Heat were outscored 18-0 by the Mavericks from beyond the arc in the first quarter, 33-6 in the first half, 45-6 through three quarters, ending with a 54-12 deficit.
“It’s just one of those nights, shots weren’t falling,” Heat guard Tyler Herro said. “We didn’t hit any threes for the most part that can really get us in a good groove, in a good rhythm on offense. It was a lot of tough buckets, twos, which are good for us. But we got to generate more threes.”
The Heat entered eighth in the league in 3-point attempts per game, but just 25th in 3-point percentage, closing 4 of 20, their fewest attempts and conversions of the season.
The Heat’s three 3-point attempts in the first period were their fewest in a quarter this season, the seventh period they had gone without a 3-pointer this season.
The Heat did not convert their first 3-pointer until Gabe Vincent connected with 8:18 left in the second period, after the Heat’s 0-for-4 start.
“It was just one of those nights, man,” Adebayo said. “They did a great job spacing the floor and shooters were making shots.”
3. The Luka factor: Spoelstra quickly dismissed a pregame line of questioning about the Heat holding Doncic to his lowest scoring average of any opponent (20.8).
Doncic then came out and scored 11 points in the first quarter, along with three assists.
“There’s not a coverage in this league or that you can devise that’s going to bother him,” Spoelstra said. “There’s just not.”
Doncic converted his first four 3-pointers, with his third the 850th of his career, adding 12 rebounds and seven assists to his 34 points, the most he has scored in his nine career appearances against the Heat.
“We didn’t do anything to make him burn a calorie or sweat, at all,” Spoelstra said.
4. Building a wall: The Mavericks took a deliberate approach with their defense against Butler, consistently sending a double team while also walling off to the paint.
While Butler was able to bull his way to the foul line on occasion, he never was able to develop an offensive rhythm.
He sat out the fourth quarter, closing 3 of 7 from the field and 6 of 6 from the line, with four rebounds and one assist, part of the Heat’s overall meltdown.
“We required doing things with a much higher motor,” Spoelstra said, “moving the defense a little bit more, getting to second and third actions without missing the moment, and putting the ball on time and target, which we’ve been building a lot of those habits the last several weeks. We just weren’t able to do that tonight.”
5. Stepping up: With the Heat’s early offense otherwise off, Oladipo stepped up with 13 first-half points, at 6 of 7 from the field at a stage the rest of his teammates were 8 of 21. The Heat’s only other bench points in the first half came on Vincent’s 3-pointer.
Outside of Oladipo’s offensive spark that included his 9-of-12 shooting, there arguably was no spark for the Heat from the Heat’s wings, with Herro adding 16 points.
“Just being assertive,” Oladipo said of producing the Heat’s lone 20-point performance, “being aggressive, and getting to the spots I feel comfortable at and trying to get to a high level and compete.”
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