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Time to panic? No, but a rare sense of tedium has crept into AmericanAirlines Arena

LeBron James waited until the fourth quarter to electrify AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday night, and when it finally happened a collective sense of relief poured out of the sold-out crowd.

Finally, these back-to-back champions seemed to care.

But that familiar feeling of purpose was fleeting. Moments of greatness by James late in games have sparked brushfires for the Heat’s offense going on four seasons now, but the passion and energy arrived too late. The Ides of March are here and with it another Heat loss, this time a 111-107 defeat to the woeful Denver Nuggets.

This shrine of basketball on Biscayne Bay hasn’t known tedium for some time, but a little bit of that stuff has crept into the cracks of the hardwood in recent days. The Heat (44-19) has lost five of its last six games and is 3-5 in March. What's more, Miami has lost back-to-back games at home for the first time since 2011.

“A tough loss at home and we just have to figure it out,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s not the way this streak started. Sometimes it just happens to you in this league where things turn and moment changes and you find yourself in a hole you feel like you can’t get out of. Obviously we’ll be able to get out of it. When? We don’t know.”

Said James: “We’ve been here before. It has been a while, but we’ve been here before, and this moment will either define our season or end our season…We always have one defining moment, and this is it right here for us.”

Before the game, Spoelstra emphasized to his players the need to substitute more freely in order to conserve energy, and the plan worked well early on. The Heat took a 30-20 lead in the first quarter, but, once again, the team was undone by turnovers.

Miami committed 20 in all, which the Nuggets converted into 22 points. Meanwhile, the Heat shot 29.2 percent from three-point range (7 of 24) despite Ray Allen going 5 of 7 from behind the arc.

“More than anything, more than our shot selection, for two games in a row, was the turnovers,” Spoelstra said. “Every time we had an opportunity to get back in the game, take control of the game, or shift the momentum, it was an uncharacteristic turnover that swayed the tide and we have to clean it up in that department.

“Those empty possessions — you don’t know where those lead if you don’t make those mistakes.”

James and Chris Bosh were both 0 of 4 from three-point range, and Heat forward Shane Battier — the starting lineup’s constant mismatch from the outside — only attempted one shot from distance.

Poor shooting from the outside suggests fatigue, but James said that isn’t a factor. After all, the Heat was reeling off 27 wins in a row this time last year.

“We’re just not playing well,” James said. “We’re just not playing well, and it’s a league where it can turn to quicksand quick…we have to figure it out and we have to get better and it doesn’t get any easier for us with Houston coming into our building on Sunday.”

A pair of free throws by Nuggets firebrand Kenneth Faried — he banked in the first  — gave the visiting team a five-point lead with 65 seconds to play, and the Heat was done. James attempted a pair of three-pointers in the final minute, and missed them both. The second, last-gasp miss came with 12 seconds to play, and Faried pulled down the rebound. He then made two more free throws on the other end to hand the Heat its third loss this season to the dregs of the Western Conference — Denver, Utah and Sacramento.

“Something is off,” said Dwyane Wade, who had 19 points.

Faried led the Nuggets with 24 points, going 9 of 15 from the field to go along with 10 rebounds. Point guard Ty Lawson had 13 points, going 9 of 10 from the free-throw line. Three reserves scored in double figures for the Nuggets —Darrell Arthur (18), Evan Fourier (14) and J.J. Hickson (11).

Allen led the Heat with 22 points in 29 minutes of work off the bench. James had 21 points, going 8 of 17 from the field and 5 of 7 from the free-throw line. He also had six rebounds and six assists. James had five points in the fourth quarter, going 1 of 4 from the field. In the Heat’s loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday James failed to score in the fourth quarter.

The Heat led by 14 points in the first half, but trailed the entire second half. Wade was 8 of 18 from the field. Mario Chalmers was 7-of-11 shooting for 16 points. He had six assists and four rebounds.

Comments

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WOW ! What a mess ! The Curse of 61 continues....

The Heat's game is as lost as that Malaysian airliner.

Is this what it looks like right before the wheels come off ?

I've warned y'all periodically...this is close to full blown. Hope they make me sound stupid by season's end. I'm sure the Heat apologists will continue their blind support. Poor BKY...having to actually sit there from the 2nd row and witness this display of vomit ball.

Heat can win without Wade or Bosh at their best...but LeBron has to be playing at almost MVP level for Heat to win. And simply...he's played really timid since 61. No MVP this season...forgetaboutit.

Say hello to 2nd seed.

So much for high basketball IQ. Folks...real simple - offensively the ball just isn't moving. A couple perimeter passes then either LeBron or Wade play the hero or Bosh throws up a 3. Then add the fact the initial on-the-ball pressure from both Chalmer & Cole is almost non-existent creating a mad scramble to recover.

I'd rather watch the 2nd team play at this point.

Better step it up or else Rockets will win by 30.

I really think the HEAT are playing with ENTITLEMENT Issues. A person can have all the talent in the world...but if they adopt an "Entitlement" attitude, it will destroy everything

In other words, that lazy pass I just passed my teammates isn't supposed to be stolen -- afterall we are 2 in a row CHAMPION Heat ! That non-challant attempt and swipe I took at a rebound should be good enough -- afterall, we won 2 Championships in a row !
That lazy reach-in-foul instead of moving my feet should have been good enough -- Afterall, I have been in a Biscayne Bay parade 2 years in a row !

Our Heat look like they seem to think that every other team should just lay down and let the HEAT do their fast-breaking, dunking, Show-time brand of B-Ball. It just doesn't work that way !

The other NBA teams want to take away what the HEAT have had. So, how are you supposed to play when someone is trying to take away what you have ?? You play HARDER, you play SMARTER, you are more DETERMINED than they are....and you definitely put away your SWAGGER on a shelf until after you hoist up the next Trophy ***NOT BEFORE !!!

All you need.....is a simple attitude Adjustment guys. Play like someone is trying to take something away from you that is PRECIOUS. Because, it is.

The Heat are Playing Selfish Basketball Not Sharing the Ball and Lebron Looks Like the Lebron who choked in 2011. Get it Fixed Quick or Cleveland will be his Welcome Home Party.

I think the 2nd seed is gonna be the easiest path to the finals. I see a #3 seed Toronto beating a #6 seed Washington. That would put Indy, Chicago and Brooklyn on the same side of the bracket. Miami would just have to play 1 of the 3. That explains why Indy and Mia are fighting for the 2 seed with all the losing. One step forward, two steps back to back to back.

What's really weird is that both Bosh & Wade are playing better this year. With Bosh playing his most natural position at the 4 more & Wade playing with more spring...it's becoming even more mindboggling.

Maybe...the heavy diet of teams just pounding them on the boards all season long have rendered the champs helpless on the ropes. The age & mileage on these guys is showing up ugly.

Of course the Heat is being beaten at the boards and paying for it. Of course, a 6.8 220 pounds starting power forward matching with REAL power forwards, and then after 19 minutes to the bench with zero points. I like the guy, a nice guy, a good player, great defense, only with many miles on him. And Bosh is not a natural center; he's being beaten at the boards. What about the Bird to start games; what about Oden; is he in very bad shape, playing only 5 minutes or none? They could even try Hamilton, finally brought back. It has to be discouraging to be outrebounded big time even for teams not good at it; Do some find disgusting to fight for rebounds? The Bird and Oden don't; Beasley either. Beasley compared to Battier?; yeah, I know, heard it a lot; "there is more that statistics in the game". But I have noticed that many times the team that makes more points that the other wins the game. Ray.

I like the thought...jpejeff. But it seems these guys would have trouble with anybody right now. For some unknown reason...LeBron is deferring at weird moments, playing passive, and matching turnovers with Chalmers (now that's hard to do). The bench guys are shocked whenever they're called upon...it's just really one big mess. It's one thing to lose going down with guns blazing...but this is beyond feeble.

The strategy is not working, Pat Riley old defensive philosophy and use a bank of 8 players will not is working because the modern basketball is faster. The defense tired players, and more when they are veterans or not so young. Score more points than the other team is very good idea to use more Beasley, Lewis and will have better results.

Tough, hard fought win. Kudos to Ray...and Wade finding his stroke. Rockets rely way too much on Harden.

Call me stupid...but I'd like to see that Oden rotation again. Granted...finesse skill-related play was limited but I saw a big body causing havoc down low. His minutes also give Birdman some rest which should help while also keeping Bosh at the 4 - that's vital.

Every time a Heatle grabs an offensive rebound, I expect him to benched, fined and traded to Philadelphia. It seems to be against team policy to catch an offensive rebound except by accident. It's worst in the final few minutes of close games, when Heatles throw up shots and just stand there watching or are one on three under the boards. You're supposed to chase your shot, get the ball back if you miss and put it up again. If you keep possession, your opponent can't score. What's so hard to understand about that?

As for Oden, he always looks gassed.

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