A loss to one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference not only ended the Miami Heat’s long winning streak, it also prevented them from keeping pace in the standings.
Facing another lowly club may help Miami get back on track.
The Heat continue their stretch against lesser opponents when they begin their final road trip of the season Sunday night against the New York Knicks.
Miami (44-35) entered Friday’s home matchup with last-place Detroit on a nine-game winning streak and tied with Milwaukee for fifth place in the East. The Heat, though, lost 106-99 and the Bucks won 95-90 at Philadelphia.
“You play games in this league to win,” Wade said. “Some are going to be tight. Some aren’t going to be. We won nine games in a row. We lost one. We’ll bounce back.”
The Heat will try to do so against New York (28-51), the seventh of nine straight opponents to end the season that is under .500. Miami visits the 76ers on Monday before hosting NBA-worst New Jersey on Wednesday.
Coach Erik Spoelstra, though, said he’s been telling the Heat that waiting to pull games out late against teams whose seasons will end next week is dangerous.
“Right now we’ve had slippage,” he told the Heat’s official Web site. “We’ve had slippage at the start of games. We’re not coming out with energy.”
Miami has averaged 112.5 points in winning four in a row over New York, taking both meetings this season by an average of 14.0. That trend seems likely to hold up with the Knicks among the worst teams in the league in allowing 105.6 points per game.
New York lost for the sixth time in eight games Friday night, 118-103 at Southeast Division champion Orlando.
“We played hard. We played pretty well. They just outmanned us. They’re just better,” coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Danilo Gallinari(notes) had 28 points and has showed steady improvement since the Knicks selected him with the sixth overall pick in 2008. The 21-year-old forward has averaged 22.8 points in the last five games and is second in the league with 176 3-pointers made.
“We are trying to develop the young guys and make sure they get good experience,” D’Antoni said. “Every game is meaningful and we try to get down to the end when you can win or lose games. We want our young guys to get experience, and I think they’re doing that.”
One of those players is Earl Barron(notes), who spent his first three years with Miami before not playing in the NBA last season. The 7-foot center has started the last three games after being signed to a 10-day contract April 2, averaging 13.3 points and 13.0 rebounds.