The Heat overcame a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter and led 88-87 with a minute left. But it finished the way it started, and the Hornets avoided a major collapse at home to hold off the Heat 95-91 on Wednesday at New Orleans Arena.
The Heat (16-13) took a slight step back after having won five of its past six games, including three in a row entering the matchup with New Orleans. The Hornets (14-16), meanwhile, remained hot at home, having won their fourth consecutive game at The Hive.
The Heat was at its inconsistent best Wednesday. At times, there was a smooth low-post game flowing through Jermaine O'Neal. There was Carlos Arroyo finding his stroke on the way to 11 points, one off his season high with the Heat. There were clutch shots and on-the-spot plays from Quentin Richardson. There was Beasley banging early with David West.
But there were also uncharacteristic mistakes. Plain, dumb mistakes. Dwyane Wade's turnovers. O'Neal's inability to even jump for the jump-ball to start the game. Players challenging one another and pointing out mistakes on the court. You name it.
Still, there was a chance at the end to pull out a win on the road. It just wasn't meant to be. The Heat essentially played its way out of the game, back in it again, and then out of it at the finish.
D. WADE'S DOINGS: Hard to imagine, but Wade only had nine field goal attempts through the first three quarters and didn't find much breathing room until the fourth. Wade finished 7 of 13 from the field, 7 of 10 from the free-throw line, for 22 points. He also had six assists, but matched his season high with six turnovers. There were a few moments of fierce frustration. Wade dug into his team a bit after the game for his supporting cast's inability to consistently capitalize on New Orleans' trapping defense. "We've seen every trap there is," Wade said afterward, before pointing out how his team had "no focus" at times in the game. "We let them play their game," Wade also said. Regardless, six turnovers are six turnovers.
TURNING POINT: There were plenty of those. But the final turn in the final minute made the difference. Chris Paul carved up the Heat's defense with his pick-and-roll execution. He's a wizard with the ball. And he made the Heat look silly in finishing with 18 points and nine assists. Paul split the defense and found David West on the baseline for the jumper that gave New Orleans the lead for good with 53.4 seconds left.
LOSING EDGE: This game was decided on the slimmest of margins. Look at the stats, and it's almost even across the board. Both teams had 78 field goal attempts. Both made 7 threes. Both made 20 free throws. But the Hornets made two more shots than Miami. As Wade also said, "We gave ourselves a chance to win. They just made a few more shots."
HEAD-SCRATCHER: With six minutes left in the third, Beasley and Richardson were jawing at one another near the bench while the coaching staff met briefly out on the floor after a timeout. Beasley was replaced less than two minutes later and would only play six seconds in the fourth quarter. Six seconds. Wow. Richardson, Beasley and Jermaine O'Neal each had moments on the court when they were frustrated after West or Emeka Okafor or someone else in a Hornets uniform grabbed an offensive rebound or scored on a back-door cut. But Richardson was animated in the first few seconds of that timeout, and then Beasley appeared to be defending himself. After the game, Beasley acknowledged that the exchange was partly about defensive breakdowns and the other part was to figure out why there were times when "nobody acted like they wanted to play." It was hard to figure out who was right and who was wrong. But the fact that Beasley stepped up and spoke out with pride and emotion was a good step. Coach Erik Spoelstra always talks about healthy controversy.
KEY CONTRIBUTION: Arroyo was aggressive. He was 5 of 10 from the field for 11 points in one of his better-scoring games of the season. He also had three assists without a turnover. Among his biggest shots were a pair of jumpers in the second half during the Heat's rally from that 16-point deficit. He played 26 minutes and took another big step toward maintaining the starting job on merit. Unfortunately for Arroyo, he also had the assignment of trying to stay in front of Chris Paul. Let's just say that in the fourth quarter second half, CP3 left Arroyo's ankles feeling like jelly. Still, it was a supporting performance from which Arroyo can build.
NEXT UP: Heat at Spurs, 7 p.m. Thursday AT&T Center