Early deficit finally burns Heat at home vs. Pistons

MIAMI — Losing a home game without one of your Big Three to snap a 10-game winning streak doesn’t exactly call for panic to set in.

Still, the Miami Heat were reminded by the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night that it’s not always easy to play from behind, even for two-time defending NBA champions.

The Heat scored the game’s first basket, then fell behind 9-2 less than three minutes in and never got closer than three points the rest of the way in a 107-97 loss to Detroit at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Dwyane Wade was not in uniform, opting to sit out for the fourth time this season to rest his knees. Nevertheless, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and the rest of the Heat seemed to have more than enough firepower to take care of Pistons, who entered with a 7-10 record.

Miami had won 13 of its previous 14 despite having fallen behind by 14 points in two of it previous three home games.

In fact, early deficits have plagued the Heat since falling behind visiting Chicago 9-2 on opening night.

“We’ve been in every situation we can dream about, we don’t need eye openers,” said James, who scored 23 points. “You go out and play to the best of your ability and you live with the results.”

The Heat have showed several times this season that they have the ability to overcome early deficits. Relying on that capability, however, can be dangerous.

Do the Heat sport such hubris?

“Definitely not, because that means you’re taking the game for granted,” point guard Mario Chalmers said. “I’m not saying that we are, we just got to figure out how to come out with better starts and keep it going for the whole 48 minutes.”

Throughout Tuesday night’s game, Miami had open looks but the many shots just didn’t fall. The Heat shot 43.9 percent (36 of 82) and were 9 of 28 from 3-point range, including 2 of 10 in the first quarter when they fell behind by 10.

“We definitely don’t want to play from behind,” James said. “We have to do a better job coming into the game being a little bit more aggressive and not shooting as many jump shots. We’ve done that and teams have gotten leads on us.”

“Of course we want to come out playing well — sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t,” said Chris Bosh, who had 14 points. “(The winning streak) was a good run. Maybe it’s what this team needs right now.”

The Pistons’ lead grew to 18 points in the second quarter, reminiscent of huge Heat deficits in early season losses at Philadelphia (22 points) and Brooklyn (16).

Even during the now-ended 10-game winning streak, Miami rallied from being down 16 points to Orlando on Nov. 23 and 14 points to Charlotte on Sunday night.

“We have great character. We’ve been through a lot of battles together, but that doesn’t mean you can take it for granted,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You have to work at it constantly. And so we will.”

Wade’s presence might have helped early, with his ability to drive or pull-up. Miami’s eight turnovers might have been a tad lower, but who knows?

Even with its Big Three available, Miami likely will face future in-game deficits against teams hungry for signature wins.

“Records don’t matter when we play teams, obviously,” James said. “Teams play a totally different pace, a totally different style when they play us. They get up to play us.”

Miami will begin a four-game road trip on Thursday night at rival Chicago. After that, there’s Minnesota, a rematch at Detroit and a highly anticipated meeting with current Eastern Conference front-runner Indiana.

“It should be a really good trip,” James said, “and a really good test for us.”

Especially if they get down early.

Charlie McCarthy can be reached at mac1763@bellsouth.net or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas.