Heat put up rare home clunker vs. Grizzlies
MIAMI — Flipping through the pages of the NBA guide, no record can be found for the earliest in a day a team lost a game.
If there were such a record, perhaps the Orlando Magic might hold it after Stan Van Gundy torpedoed his team's chances with the revelation Thursday after the morning shootaround that center Dwight Howard had requested he be fired as coach. The Magic were then walloped that night at home by New York.
As for the other team in Florida, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade got the sense that Friday night's game against Memphis was lost in the layup line. So while that might not challenge to be a record, it's still pretty early.
"I said in the warmup line, I was like, 'This might be one of these nights, Jesus,' and I hoped it wasn't," Wade said after his Heat were crushed 97-82 by Memphis at AmericanAirlines Arena. "But it was one of those nights."
Wade, who didn't deny fatigue played a role in his feelings of impending doom, saw his fears realized in a dreadful first quarter that included the guard botching two dunks. The Heat fell behind 25-12 after the first quarter while committing 11 turnovers and never getting closer than 10 points the rest of the game.
There are reasons a loss like this cannot be regarded as a huge surprise. The Heat have been looking weary lately. And even though they had won 17 straight home games, the Heat had been needing some Houdini-like escapes lately. The streak recently had included storming back from deficits of 10 to beat Atlanta, 14 to topple Indiana and 10 in the fourth quarter to defeat Phoenix.
The Heat's play at point guard has been shoddy lately, and it was as bad Friday as it has been all season. Mario Chalmers finished with one point and backup point guard Norris Cole went scoreless. Miami, despite having recently added center Ronny Turiaf, still has trouble against big teams such as the Grizzlies.
Then there's the letdown factor. The Heat played their first game since Wednesday's 98-93 emotional win over Oklahoma City, perhaps their biggest victory of the season.
Wade and Heat forward LeBron James dismissed any possibility that a letdown was to blame. But forward Shane Battier called it a factor, and, with 11 years under his belt, he's more of a veteran than Wade or James.
"First of all Memphis is really good, and we've struggled against some really physical, big teams this year, and such a poor start was too much to overcome," said Battier, who knows a bit about the Grizzlies since he played for them last season. "And I think there was probably a little hangover from the game (against the Thunder)… Sometimes you throw up a clunker at home. It's been a long time since we had a game like this at home. So sometimes you're just due."
Miami's last home loss was Jan. 22 against Milwaukee. The Heat were one shy of the longest home-winning streak in team history, set in 2004-05.
As to whether the Heat simply are running low on fuel at this juncture of the season, that was a source of debate after the game. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra didn't deny his team has some weariness during this 66-game trash-compactor of a season. But he bristled at suggestions that anything is different with his team than other NBA outfits.
"Everybody is going through this right now," Spoelstra said. "Does everybody feel 100 percent? No. Is there some physical fatigue? Yes. Is there mental fatigue? Probably. Every team is going through that."
The Grizzlies, however, looked much less weary Friday than the Heat. Forward Zach Randolph, who had 14 points and 14 rebounds off the bench, looked spry. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise he missed 37 early-season games due to a knee injury. And another guy for Grizzlies who hasn't played much this season, the recently signed Gilbert Arenas, turned back the clock to shoot 4-of-5 from 3-point range for his 12 points.
As for the Heat, James shot a pedestrial 8-of-19 for 21 points and Wade was 8-of-18 for 20 points. Forward Chris Bosh was a solid 8-of-15 for 19 points but had just four rebounds, his 17th game out of the past 18 in which he's failed to reach double digits. Bosh, who said before the season he wanted to average 10 boards and is now at 7.6, then claimed he doesn't "pay attention to the rebounds individually."
"Everybody's fatigued," Wade said about the Heat being weary. "That's the kind of season it is. Everybody around the league. Some nights are going to be great, some nights are not."
Fatigue aside, most nights lately have not been good ones for Miami's point guards. Friday featured starter Chalmers and backup Cole combining to shoot 0-of-9 and commit five turnovers with just four assists. Chalmers had three of the 11 first-quarter miscues, Miami's most in any quarter since Feb. 14, 2006.
"When we turn the ball over, we're not that good," James said. "We understand that. We know that. We don't care when we have attack turnovers…. We had careless ones… It was just careless. We understand that we're a veteran ballclub, and we know we can't turn the ball over like that."
James didn't single out any player. But Chalmers, who finished with four turnovers in 24 minutes, has had four in two of his past three games.
At least Chalmers sometimes has been able to make a shot. As for Cole, who went 0-of-5 Friday in 11 minutes, he's shooting an anemic 14-of-64 (21.9 percent) in his past 14 games, including 2-of-21 (9.5 percent) during his past four.
It got so bad Friday the Heat played 13 minutes without a true point guard on the floor.
But the trade deadline has passed and list of available point guards is quite short, so the Heat might have to go with what they have. With that in mind, it's no wonder the most-heard comment after the game was it being just one of those nights.
"It was an unbelievable streak that we had," James said. "I guess all good things must come to an end. It was just one of those games."
Or, in other words, it was a clunker.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson