Despite coming off a 2-4 road trip, the Miami Heat returned home earlier this week feeling optimistic after posting their first back-to-back wins of the season.
Any good feelings have likely disappeared, however, following another frustrating loss.
Miami (6-16) is trying hard to stay positive despite having one of the worst records in the NBA as it hosts the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.
After losing five straight games at the start of December, including the first four of a road trip, the Heat closed the stretch with wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns. Miami, however, got off to a slow start Thursday in a 104-91 loss to the Washington Wizards and fell to an Eastern Conference-worst 2-7 at home.
The Heat scored just 16 points in the opening quarter and never recovered. Chris Quinn scored a career-high 22 points off the bench while Dwyane Wade was limited to 17 and Shaquille O’Neal took just six shots and had seven points and six boards.
“There’s no excuses,” coach Pat Riley said. “There are none. I have none. The players should have none. … Tonight, we didn’t hardly even try.”
Miami is tied with New York and Memphis for the second-worst mark in the NBA.
Wade failed to score at least 31 points for the first time in four games. He was just 5-of-11 from the field Thursday after attempting at least 20 shots in his previous five games.
“Everyone comes in and understands that we can do better,” Wade said. “We see flashes of it … But like coach said, it’s a fine line right now. We can either take a step to the right and be a great team, or take a step to the left and be one of the worst teams in the league. Right now we’ve just got to get closer to that step to the right.”
O’Neal’s effort was just as puzzling—he’s taken 10 shots or less in each of his last nine games. He entered the season getting nearly 18 a game over his career.
The Heat have won three straight at home against the Pacers (11-12), who are 6-5 on the road. Miami played without an injured Wade in an 87-85 loss on Nov. 2 at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Indiana has alternated wins and losses in its last eight games, falling 104-93 to the Toronto Raptors on Friday. It was the first time in six games the Pacers were held below 100 points.
“We left the door open and all of a sudden with their run we found ourselves down,” said Danny Granger, who had 15 points and nine rebounds. “We’ve just got to do a better job on defense and stop these fourth quarter collapses. We now have to get our heads together and go to work in Miami.”
Granger, who leads the Pacers in scoring with 17.1 points per game, scored 25 against the Heat in November. He’s averaging just 11.7 points in his last three contests overall.