NBA Basketball

Not giving up, Heat sticking around playoff race

Despite some close losses, the Miami Heat remain just outside the crowded playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

After experiencing mixed results against Western Conference finalists Golden State and Houston earlier this week, Miami hosts the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night.

At 27-34, the Heat are a season-worst seven games under .500. Since they were 24-24 following a nine-point win in New York on Jan. 27, the Heat are 3-10.

Six of those losses are by single digits, including Thursday's 121-118 loss at Houston when Miami coughed up a 21-point third-quarter lead. On Thursday, Miami was outscored 35-20 in the fourth quarter and allowed 58 points to James Harden.

"We're right there every single game," Miami forward Kelly Olynyk told reporters. "We need to make one more play, one more possession, whether it's a stop or a score or something."

Goran Dragic and Olynyk scored 21 points apiece in a game where Miami shot 52 percent and made 15 of 28 3-pointers. Miami held a 10-point lead with 6:18 remaining Thursday but wound up getting outscored 18-5 the rest of the way while missing eight of its last 10 shots.

"The only way we're going to change it is if it really hurts. It has to really hurt. And if it doesn't hurt, then it's not going to change for us," Miami's Dwyane Wade said.

Despite struggling for wins in the last 13 games, it has not impacted the standings significantly.

When Miami last reached .500 it was seventh in the East with a one-game lead over Charlotte. Now Miami is 10th and 1 1/2 games behind eighth-place Charlotte.

Miami has played its last two games without starting center Hassan Whiteside (hip strain). Whiteside is questionable for Saturday and if he sits again, Bam Adebayo would likely make his ninth start of the season.

Miami may also be without Dragic (left calf strain) and Olynyk (sprained right ankle), both listed as questionable.

The Nets head to Miami coming off two straight sub-par defensive showings. Brooklyn allowed 68 first-half points in home losses to Washington and Charlotte.

On Friday, the Nets were handed a 123-112 loss to the Hornets when they were outscored 37-18 in the second quarter.

"We got find some solutions we're out of sync right now," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. "It's up to us to figure out what that looks that like. Two games in a row where we're not sharp, shot selection is not great and the ball movement not great."

The last two losses are part of a recent pattern for the Nets, who are 5-9 in their last 14 games since winning six straight from Jan. 14-25 as part of a 19-5 surge. During its last 14 games, Brooklyn is allowing 114.8 points per game and 46.3 percent shooting and its nine losses are by an average of 10.3 points.

"Right now our defense is bleeding and we got to stop the bleeding," Atkinson said.

The Nets will play their second straight game with a fully healthy roster after Spencer Dinwiddie returned from missing 14 games with a torn ligament in his right thumb.

D'Angelo Russell led the Nets with 22 points while Dinwiddie scored 15 points in 23 minutes in his first game since Jan. 23, but the Nets committed nine of their 17 turnovers in the decisive run by Charlotte.

The road team has won the first two meetings. On Nov. 14 former guard Tyler Johnson scored 24 points in Miami's 120-107 win and six days later Russell scored 20 points as Brooklyn held the Heat to 36 percent shooting in a 104-92 win.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 2, 2019

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