Miami (18-15) won eight of 11 from Dec. 1-16, but has since dropped four of six. Tougher competition is partly to blame, with five of those games coming against division leaders Cleveland, Orlando, San Antonio and Denver.
The Heat opened their trip Wednesday with a 108-87 loss to the Nuggets, suffering the lopsided loss despite 31 points from Dwyane Wade and 25 and 13 rebounds from Shawn Marion. Denver was 30-of-40 from the free-throw line while Miami was 15-of-16, and the Heat trailed throughout against a Nuggets team that won its fifth in a row.
“We had our chances,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We got it to three (points behind) so many times in the game.”
Wade shot 13-of-23 from the field. He’s averaging an NBA-leading 28.7 points per game and combined with Marion to score 31 of Miami’s 49 points in the second half.
The Heat climbed within six twice, but J.R. Smith hit two jumpers, the last with 1.1 seconds left in the third, to push the lead back to 11.
Miami’s road trip runs through Jan.18, but its schedule should finally start to get somewhat easier. The Heat still have to face the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston on this trip, but the four other remaining games are against teams with losing records.
One of them is Sacramento (8-28), loser of four straight and 10 of 11. The Kings’ most recent defeat came Tuesday at Chicago, as they fell despite shooting 50.7 percent from the field.
The Bulls made 33 of 34 free throws, compared to the Kings’ 19-of-24 performance from the line. Kevin Martin finished with 29 points for Sacramento, but missed a potential tying shot with four seconds left.
Brad Miller added 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Kings.
“We fell behind 12 or 13 points in the fourth and that’s usually what happens when you exert all this energy trying to get back and then you fall short at the end,” Martin said. “But we’re getting home after this tough road loss and see if we can do better.”
Martin has averaged 30.0 points in five games after missing three weeks because of a sore ankle.
After going winless on their four-game trip, the Kings open a three-game homestand, during which they’ll also face Dallas and Orlando. Six of Sacramento’s wins this season have come at home, although three were during the first two weeks of the season.
Miami pounded the Kings 103-77 on Oct. 31, as six Heat players scored in double figures. The Heat have won nine of the last 10 meetings, with the only loss during that stretch coming last season at Arco Arena on March 2 by a 120-109 score.