LOS ANGELES—The Heat lost 97-96 to the hapless Clippers Saturday night at the Staples Center. There’s plenty for the Heat to ponder following this loss. The most painful part was what unfolded with 7.2 seconds left. The Heat trailed by 1 point, Dwyane Wade stole the ball from Clippers point guard Baron Davis, who was trying to make a desperation pass to avoid receiving a five-second violation on the inbound. As Wade tried to throw the ball upcourt, where Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and Shawn Marion were wide open and in position to catch a pass and get a dunk for the win, he wound up out of bounds and collided with referee Courtney Kirkland. As a result Kirkland inadvertently blew his whistle, stopping the play.
Wade clearly was inbounds as he made the pass after the steal. At first it seemed like the officials had ruled that Wade was out of bounds. The Heat was given possession but by then the Heat’s golden opportunity was gone.
The Clippers had a foul to give and rookie Mike Taylor fouled Wade with 2.9 seconds left in the game. Rookie Mario Chalmers in bounded the ball and Wade fired a 27-foot shot with Marcus Camby in his face, but Wade’s shot fell short.
This game will be remembered for the controversial end, but several other factors contributed to the Heat’s loss.
Player of the Game: Dwyane Wade scored 26 points and if not for his late heroics to help erase an eight-point deficit with 1:24 left this game would not have been as close. Wade again provided a highlight reel of dunks and continued sinking jumpers and even three-pointers (he was 2 of 7). On the night, he shot 12 of 21. He also had a season-high 11 assists. Overall a solid follow-up performance for Wade, a night after scoring a season-high 43 points.
Surprise, surprise: Rookie Michael Beasley provided a spark off the bench, scoring 24 points (one shy of his career high) in 27 minutes. He had 17 points in the second quarter. He shot 10 of 16, including converting a career-high 3 of 4 three-pointers. Beasley started the game 0 of 3 from the field, making him 0 for 8 including his Friday performance but then he was on fire. Beasley had five rebounds, but Wade seemed upset with Beasley’s late game-defense. After Clippers forward Zach Randolph hit a three-point that gave LA a 90-86 lead with 3:56 left, Wade got in Beasley’s ear. Beasley’s body language indicated that he felt like had done what he could.
Tough night: Shawn Marion had a team-high turnovers and overall an off night. Did he leave all his energy in Phoenix? On Friday, Marion played his first game against his former team the Suns, scoring 10 points, and adding nine rebounds and six assists. He was 1 of 6 from the field and finished with five points thanks to hitting three free throws. Marion had nine rebounds but that didn’t negate the obvious: He missed several shots near the basket, including at least one dunk.
Light em’ Up: It’s a toss up between the Clippers’ Randolph and former FSU standout Al Thornton. Both finished with 27 points and accounted for 20 of LA’s 29 fourth quarter points.
Stat of the Night: LA attempted 35 free throws, compared to the Heat’s 11. That easily could have been the difference in the game. The Clippers managed to miss 12 free throws, but still the Heat didn’t get to the line enough and had the Heat been in the bonus in the fourth quarter, Mike Taylor’s foul of Wade with 2.9 seconds would have sent him to the line. Wade had an impressive game so it’s hard to pick on him but when his game features mostly jumpers and dunks he doesn’t get to the line as much. He attempted two free throws Saturday, and when Wade isn’t getting to the line the Heat has few other players capable of drawing a lot of fouls.
That says it all: “We won the game, they took it from us.” –Wade’s reaction to what unfolded with about seven seconds left.
Next up: Heat at Golden State Warriors Monday, 10:30 p.m.