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.
“It is extremely tough to win in this league when you have 24 turnovers,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
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 Nos. 7-8 game hosts the winner of the Nos. 9-10 game for the No. 8 playoff seed. The two teams that fail to advance out of the play-in round are seeded into the NBA draft lottery.
“We have to win some more games to get out of that,” forward Jimmy Butler said.
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 three-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 called for a foul.
That sent Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen to the line with 20.1 seconds remaining. Allen made only the first free throw, but Max Strus was then off on a potential tying 3-pointer.
“I thought we played well, I thought we played tough, I think we did a lot of good things,” Spoelstra said. “The turnovers were really tough.”
2. Turnover time: With 7:34 to play, the Heat set a season high with their 24th turnover, a charge that was the fifth turnover of the night for Oladipo.
For an offense with such little wiggle room, it largely was an assist-to-turnover disaster, with the Heat closing with 22 assists.
Cleveland entered forcing 15.2 turnovers per game, seventh best in the league. The Heat entered averaging 13.4 turnovers, sixth fewest in the NBA.
In addition to Oladipo’s five turnovers, Adebayo, Herro and Kevin Love each had three for the Heat. The lone Heat player without a turnover was Strus.
“There were some unforced ones for sure,” Spoelstra said.
3. Foul start: A foolish perimeter foul in the opening minute led to a foul-filled first half for Adebayo, who was forced to the bench for the balance of the first half with his third foul with 7:25 left in the second period.
Adebayo was up to 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting when forced to sit.
That had Spoelstra rushing backup center Cody Zeller back into the game with two fouls of his own.
That played out with Omer Yurtseven available for a second consecutive game, yet to make his season debut, now recovered from November ankle surgery.
Adebayo’s lone rebound did not come until 1:57 remained.
“The rebounding gods weren’t on my side tonight,” Adebayo said.
4. Traveling man: Despite flying to Los Angeles for Tuesday’s retirement of Pau Gasol’s jersey by the Lakers, Butler looked no worse for the wear, his effort including 12-of-15 performance from the foul line.
All the while, he continued his relentless pursuit on the offensive glass, this time with four offensive rebounds.
“We got to have this next one on Friday,” Butler said.
Of his whirlwind to Los Angeles, Butler called it, “very important for me. Pau has been a brother for me really from our Chicago days. He taught me how to be a pro. I wouldn’t miss that for the world.”
5. Love is Love: Love was back from his one-game absence with a bruised rib and back in the Heat starting lineup.
After several embraces with his former Cavaliers teammates during warmups, Love scored the Heat’s first four points and drew a pair of charges in the opening 3:57, returning to the bench with a smile during the game’s first timeout.
He closed with eight rebounds and eight assists in 20 minutes.
“We feel like we can’t keep setting ourselves back,” Love said.
Soruce : https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/03/08/heat-cant-overcome-their-miscues-fall-104-100-to-cavaliers-as-play-in-odds-increase/