LeBron James gets the pass from Mike Bibby as time is winding down in the fourth, with his team down by three…he steps behind the three point line and launches a game-tying three…CLANG, the ball bangs off the front of the rim and the Heat walk dejectedly off the court after blowing a big lead at home.
Begging to sound familiar, isn’t it?
This time, Miami’s collapse came against the Orlando Magic, a team the Heat thoroughly handled the last time they played but failed to closeout in this game. Up by 24 in the third quarter, Miami inexplicably lost the ability to play basketball as the Magic soared back under the offensive onslaught of Jason Richardson, who started the rally with 11 third quarter points,
"I’ve been a part of games like this one before, but this one is special," said Richardson, who was 5-for-5 from 3-point range after halftime. "We knew what they did to us last time. LeBron and D-Wade played at a superstar level in the first half. We just hung in there, battled, got some stops. It was huge getting a win here."
The loss gives the Heat a 14-15 record this season against teams with winning records and drops them two and a half games behind the Celtics for first in the East. More worrisome, however, is that the Orlando Magic are quietly only 3 ½ games back from the Miami in the Southeast Division. Winners of 4 straight, the Magic are steadily starting to find their groove.
"We need to keep on pushing through," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "There’s no other way to say it. … The tide turned."
Miami has been plagued recently by late collapses and inabilities to make the clutch plays down the stretch, specifically LeBron James, who seems to have lost his confidence in his three point shot and mid range jumpers. James has had numerous times over the past few week to win games in the closing seconds only to have his shot go wide or short.
"If we had the answer, we would try to figure it out and pin that specific answer," James said of the continued blown leads. "I don’t think it’s the execution, because we’re getting some great looks. Hopefully, we can figure it out soon."
Whatever their issues, they have to find them and address them quickly because the schedule doesn’t afford them any slack as they are just in the beginning of a long stretch of games that will pit them against winning teams.
The true measure of the Heat are about to be tested, but will they be ready?