When the Miami Heat talk about competing, the approach often is expressed as a willingness to play in the mud.
Wednesday night at Miami-Dade Arena, Erik Spoelstra’s team created its own slop, with a season-high 24 turnovers.
That ultimately provided too much adversity in a 104-100 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers that dropped the Heat four games behind the New York Knicks in the battle for the No. 5 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference and three behind the Brooklyn Nets in the race for No. 6.
Their odds for a play-in berth increasing with 15 games remaining, the Heat now find themselves in a tenuous spot for No. 7, just one game ahead of the No. 8 Atlanta Hawks in that loss column.
In the play-in, No. 7 hosts No. 8 in a single game to decide the No.7 playoff seed in the best-of-seven first round. The loser of that game hosts the winner of the Nos. 9-10 game for the No. 8 playoff seed.
Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 28 points, with Tyler Herro adding 22 and Bam Adebayo 17, on a night Adebayo grabbed only one rebound.
The Cavaliers were led by Darius Garland’s 25 points.
The teams close out their four-game season series with an 8 p.m. rematch Friday at Miami-Dade Arena.
Five Degrees of Heat from Wednesday’s game:
1. Closing time: The Heat led 30-26 at the end of the opening period, but then trailed 57-53 at halftime, with 13 turnovers at that stage. Up to 20 turnovers through three quarters, the Heat went into the fourth down 87-82.
The Heat then went down seven before Butler returned with 6:25 to play. From there, a 3-point play by Adebayo drew the Heat within 98-93, making it yet another clutch game (within five or fewer points at any point within the final five minutes), the Heat’s league-leading 47th.
Two free throws by Butler then made it a three-point game, with a transition dunk by Caleb Martin getting the Heat within 98-97.
From there, a Garland driving basket got Cleveland up 100-97, with Victor Oladipo missing a potential tying 3-pointer on the other end and an Isaac Okoro inside score making it 102-97 Cleveland with 49 seconds to play.
But after the Cavaliers were called for a five-seconds inbounding violation, Herro drilled a 3-pointer to make it a 102-100 game.
The Heat then appeared to come up with a steal off the Cavaliers’ ensuing inbounds play, but Adebayo instead was …read more
Source:: The Mercury News