The Miami Heat let another lead slip as they fell to the Washington Wizards 103-100, making it seven losses from their past eight games.
Last year's NBA finalists have gotten the 2020-21 campaign off to a slow start and now sit at 7-14 on the season, good for 13th in the Eastern Conference.
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With nearly a third of the season gone, is it time to panic for the Heat?
After giving away a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Hornets earlier in the week, which saw them eventually lose in overtime, the Heat struggled to close out the NBA worst 4-13 Wizards on their home floor.
They held a 13-point lead in the third quarter and entered the final frame up five, before their lead quickly evaporated with Wizards star Bradley Beal on the bench.
Kelly Olynyk tied things up at 98-98 with 3:18 left, before misses from Goran Dragic and Jimmy Butler paved the way for the Wizards to ice the game at the free-throw line thanks to Davis Bertans and Bradley Beal.
GROWN MAN BUCKET. 🐼🐼🐼#NBAAllStar | @RealDealBeal23 pic.twitter.com/DItw33uqlW- Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) February 4, 2021
"Look," coach Erik Spoelstra said, "everybody's disappointed, everybody's uncomfortable. And we, staff and players alike, we want to be better than what we've shown."
"We just have to be better," Spoelstra said. "It's as simple as that."
Against a Wizards team that ranks 28th in defence, the Heat piled up 65 points in the first half, but struggled to find any offensive rhythm in the final 24 minutes as Wizards coach Scott Brooks went to a zone defence, limiting them to just 35 points, as they outscored them 26-18 in the final frame.
Tyler Herro led Miami with 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting, while Butler added 19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds and Bam Adebayo 17 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
Is it time to panic?
The short answer is no....not just yet.
While many expected the Heat to build on last season's run, injuries and COVID-19 absences have robbed them of lineup consistency, using 14 different starting lineups already.
The trio of Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo, who were central to their success last season have only played 46 minutes together, per NBA Stats, with Wednesday's loss to the Wizards just the eighth game all three have been available.
Sophomore guard Tyler Herro has also been sidelined for seven games due to neck spasms.
The Heat haven't been the same team shooting the ball from the 3-point line this season and are turning the ball over at a rapid rate. They're committing 17.2 turnovers per game, the second-highest mark in the league and being punished for it as teams are scoring 21.7 points off those turnovers.
They'll take on the Wizards at home again in their next game, before two games against the New York Knicks, three games they should win on paper, but it only gets tougher from there as they face a seven-game road trip, including games against the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, LA Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers.
It's still early enough in the season for them to bounce back, but with a 2-7 road record, this next stretch of games could prove telling.
Beal continues to re-write record books
A player the Heat have been linked with in trade rumours of late is Bradley Beal, who continued his red-hot start to the season.
With his 15th point of the game, Beal joined Elvin Hayes (15,551) as the only Washington players to score at least 12,000 points.
With 32 points against the Heat, Beal has now scored 25+ points in 17 consecutive games, the longest streak to start a season since the NBA/ABA merger, breaking Michael Jordan's previous record of 16.
Bradley Beal has at least 25 points in all 17 games this season, passing Michael Jordan for the longest streak by a player to begin a season in the last 50 years and the 5th-longest streak in NBA history. h/t @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/9v0cc5HlUp- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 4, 2021
"Great players in this league continue to reinvent themselves and find different ways to attack all the great coverages that they've earned," Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said of Beal.
"And Bradley Beal's earned the opponents' staff and teams to game plan and throw everything and the kitchen sink at him, to try to slow him down. I don't think anybody has really figured that out this year."
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