The Miami Heat admitted its energy had waned. With five losses in the past six games entering Tuesday, the Heat’s players and coaches hoped Dwyane Wade’s arrival after a seven-game absence would snap the team out of its funk and maybe inject a much-needed jolt of enthusiasm into the locker room.
It didn’t happen. Miami started slow against the Brooklyn Nets at AmericanAirlines Arena and finished slower. Even after Heat dug out of an early hole to lead through much of the second and third quarters, Miami closed miserably and lost to the Nets, 104-92, at home.
The Heat (6-11) has now lost five games in a row at home, all while wearing the new Vice Nights jerseys.
Miami’s offense never got on track after a disastrous opening quarter. The Heat shot 36 percent from the floor, 21.9 percent from the three-point range and 65 percent from the free throw line. Center Hassan Whiteside led the offense with 21 points — plus 23 rebounds for his 19th career 20 rebound game — but it took him 21 shots to get there. Josh Richardson added another 16 points and Rodney McGruder scored 15. Forward Justise Winslow was the Heat’s only other player to score in double figures with 10.
Guard D’Angelo Russell led the Nets with 20 points in Miami.
One of the Heat’s biggest issues during the recent losing streak has been its performance in fourth quarters. Early in the skid, Miami dropped a pair of games despite taking a lead into the final period and it happened once again against the Nets. Brooklyn (8-10) outscored the Heat, 30-15, in the fourth quarter in Miami to erase the Heat’s 77-74 lead entering the final period. Miami shot just 22 percent in the quarter and went 5 of 11 from the stripe.
It came on the bookend of a particularly gruesome first 12 minutes for the Heat and an even worse first six. Miami started off 0 for 6, then 2 of 18. Richardson missed a technical free throw. The Heat didn’t score for the first three and a half minutes and only reached six points with 3:19 left in the opening quarter. Somehow, Miami entered the second period only trailing 20-13, well within striking distance to eventually take a 42-39 lead into halftime.
With some new-look lineups, the Heat managed for a while. Miami started a lineup without anything resembling a traditional power forward, as Richardson ran a lineup with Wayne Ellington and McGruder on the wings, and Derrick Jones Jr. as the other forward. It didn’t work off the start, but the same group opened the third quarter and maintained a 54-52 lead before Wade checked in to take over point guard duties for Richardson.
Wade, who returned from a seven-game absence for paternity leave, finished with five points and one flashback-inducing chase-down block in 13 foul-plagued minutes. With guards Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson both sidelined, Miami had to rely on Wade and Richardson for the bulk of minutes at point.
Meanwhile, Kelly Olynyk did not play for the first time this season. Although the post player dressed, coach Erik Spoelstra favored rookie power forward Duncan Robinson as his stretch four of choice Tuesday. Robinson went 1 of 3 from three-point range and finished with only three points in 12 minutes. Forward James Johnson, who played for the second straight game after making his season debut Sunday, scored four points on 1-of-7 shooting in 23 minutes.