MIAMI — The final 17-point margin of defeat wasn’t indicative of how close the Miami Heat were to grinding out a victory against the talented Golden State Warriors at home Tuesday night.
After fighting their way back from a double-digit deficit in the second half to lead 95-93 with 7:25 left in the game after three free throws from Shabazz Napier, the wheels fell off. Miami failed to make a field goal for the rest of the game and only scored on two free throws while Golden State scored 21 points during that span.
There is merit to the Heat’s grit and determination to hang in for most of the night despite being shorthanded with Dwyane Wade and Chris Andersen out. But that was no consolation prize for Chris Bosh, who looked and sounded weary after the Heat’s 114-97 loss dropped them to 8-7.
"I don’t really get what we think or what we do down the stretch against good teams or the elite teams," he said. "For some reason, we just forget everything — offensive and defensive execution. We talked about it today, it (was) going to be extremely tough because Stephen (Curry) and Klay (Thompson) are going to knock down tough shots. That’s what they do, that’s why they’re All-Stars. We got to the end, we’re in the bonus at 93-95 and we don’t score anymore. We have the position but for some reason we just forget our offense."
Part of it is inexperience. With rookies James Ennis and Napier playing significant minutes in addition to newcomers Shawne Williams, Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng, the Heat would still be a work in progress at this point of the season even if they were at full strength health-wise.
But what frustrates Bosh is the template for victory was there in the first half, when the Heat were moving the ball around and creating a fluid offense in which several players touched the ball until they found the best look at the basket.
"I think we took ourselves out of everything," he said of the Heat’s play in crunch time. "I give them credit, they did come with a good scheme, but it’s not like we made them work. We just stopped moving the ball. We fought the shot clock it seems like every possession. We didn’t get any penetration, no drives and kicks. We didn’t get to many second situations."
The Warriors outplayed the Heat on both ends, and the disparity between the execution from both teams was not lost on Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra.
"They took us out of some actions where we had to get to secondary, third actions towards the end of the possession," he said. "They really clamped down and our execution flattened out in those situations. Ultimately we just have to find a way to sustain and with our mental toughness. In games like this, you have an opportunity regardless of how you get there — to give yourself a chance to win at the end."
The Heat remain in transition in the post-Big 3 era, and it’s a challenge for any team to replace the production of a high-caliber player like Wade, but the hope is that these kinds of losses will be a positive learning experience for the near future.
The Heat have looked impressive before in victories against good teams such as the Dallas Mavericks and the Toronto Raptors, but the next step they need to take is to do it consistently with everyone on the same page from start to finish.