For the Heat, these consecutive home games on Wednesday and Saturday nights crystallize the season.
The highest of highs.
And now, again, the lowest of lows.
On Wednesday night, there was the emotional victory over the New York Knicks that created hope of a potential No. 5 playoff seed.
And then Saturday at Miami-Dade Arena, a 129-100 thud of a loss to the Brooklyn Nets that dumped the Heat back to No. 7 in the East, one spot out of a direct ticket to the best-of-seven first round of the playoffs.
“I’m not surprised about anything that’s happened at all this season,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And we’ve said this a few times and it remains true, there has been nothing easy about this season. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that has to be a negative thing. You have to embrace the struggle.”
Sizzling early, the Heat fizzled in the third quarter, as the Nets completed the 3-0 season sweep.
For the Heat, it ultimately resulted in the team’s worst home loss since December 2020 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Tyler Herro and Max Strus led the Heat with 23 points apiece, with Jimmy Butler adding 18 and Bam Adebayo 16.
The Nets, who held the Heat to 31 second-half points, were led by the 27 of Mikal Bridges.
“We just got categorically outplayed,” Spoelstra said.
Five Degrees of Heat from Saturday’s game:
1. Third wave: The Heat shot 13 of 16 from the field and 6 of 7 on 3-pointers to take a 36-28 lead into the second period. But even at .659 from the field and 9 of 15 on threes, the Heat’s lead stood at only 69-65 at the half.
It then all came apart in the third period, with a 31-6 Nets run fueling them to a 104-87 lead going into the fourth.
“Even in the first half, they were moving our defense, they just missed some,” Spoelstra said.
“We have not been defending at a world-class level the way we’re capable of.”
The 39-18 third period was the most lopsided quarter for the Nets this season since parting with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
2. Not this time: There was no final push from Butler because the Heat did not position him for one.
Butler, who had been playing at an All-NBA level, took his first rest of the second half with 52.9 seconds to play in the second and then returned earlier than usual, with 8:31 to play. But by then the Heat were down 112-92.
Eventually the towel was thrown in with 3:30 to play when Omer Yurtseven and Duncan Robinson were inserted with the Heat down 124-97.
Butler closed 6 of 13 from the field and 5 of 7 from the line, with five assists. He closed with a game-worst minus-33 plus/minus rating.
“The second half just became an avalanche,” Spoelstra said.
3. Playoff race: With the loss, the Heat fell to 40-35, now a half-game behind the Nets for the No. 6 Eastern Conference playoff seed, the final direct berth to the best-of-seven opening round of the playoffs.
The loss also dropped the Heat two games behind the No. 5 New York Knicks, with the teams to meet Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
“This locker room does not want to be in a play-in,” Herro said. “That’s not on our radar.”
Still, in the race for the top play-in seed, the Heat’s lead over the No. 8 Atlanta Hawks was reduced to 2 1/2 games. The top seed in the play-in gets two home-game chances to produce a single victory needed to advance to the playoffs.
“It’s just unfortunate,” guard Kyle Lowry said.
The Heat have seven remaining regular-season games, five of them on the road.
“We’re going to keep fighting,” Adebayo said. “It’s one of those losses where you know it costs you something.”
4. Crash course: Part of the Nets’ ability to push to that 17-point lead at the end of the third quarter was 13 offensive rebounds yielded to Brooklyn over the first three periods, which the Nets turned into 25 second-chance points.
Even with that deficit, the Heat elected to remain small in their power rotation, utilizing Haywood Highsmith off the bench instead of Yurtseven.
The Heat remain hopeful of an imminent return from veteran big man Cody Zeller from the broken nose sustained two weeks ago.
The Nets closed with 17 offensive rebounds and outscored the Heat 29-14 on second-chance points.
“That’s something that has been crippling to us at times,” Spoelstra said. “When we don’t rebound, that has proven to be extremely costly.”
5. Mad Max: Strus scored 13 in his first 3:25 to spark the Heat to their early lead, shooting 5 of 5 from the field and 3 of 3 on 3-pointers
He then, in the second period, extended his perfect start to 9 of 9 from the field and 5 of 5 on 3-pointers.
Status’ only first-half miss was an attempt to beat the first-half buzzer, dropping his 9 of 10 and 5 of 6 at halftime.
Strus was up to 23 points by the intermission, tying his career high for any half.
But he then missed his only attempt in a scoreless third period and did not score in the second half.
“He has a game like that and we don’t win, it’s disappointing for all of us,” Adebayo said.
Source: Berkshire mont
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