Heat loses to Dallas, sees its odds of avoiding play-in grow longer. Takeaways and details

Five takeaways from the Heat’s 111-92 loss against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night at Kaseya Center:

Undone by another brutal start, Miami saw its second-half rally fall short and now seems even more likely to end up in the play-in tournament.

The Heat, No. 8 in the East, would have been locked into the play-in (meaning a seventh or eighth seed) with a loss on Wednesday, combined with a Cleveland win against Memphis and an Orlando win at Milwaukee.

The Cavs won, meaning Miami cannot catch Cleveland in the standings.

But the Magic lost to the Bucks. That means the Heat could jump Orlando in the standings if the Heat wins its final two games (both at home against Toronto) and if the Magic loses its final two: at Philadelphia and at home to Milwaukee.

But even if that happens, the 76ers would need to lose at home to the Nets on Sunday for Miami to avoid the play-in.

In that specific scenario - two Orlando losses, two Heat wins and a Philadelphia loss to Brooklyn - Miami would be sixth by virtue of owning a three-team tiebreaker with Philadelphia and Orlando.

The Heat owns the tiebreaker with Orlando by virtue of winning the head to head series. The Heat owns the tiebreaker with Philadelphia because of a better conference record.

If Philadelphia beats Orlando and the Nets, and Orlando loses again to the Bucks, and the Heat wins its last two games, then Miami would host the Magic in the 7-8 play-in game.

For now, Miami remains in eighth, a full game behind No. 7 Philadelphia. If the Heat wins out and the 76ers stumble against Orlando or Brooklyn, Miami would move up to seventh – or sixth, if Orlando also loses to Milwaukee on Sunday.

The seventh seed plays host to the eighth seed in a play-in game next Tuesday or Wednesday. The winner of that game would play the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.

The loser of that Tuesday play-in game would play the winner of the Atlanta-Chicago 9-10 play-in game; the winner of that game (on Friday, April 19) would play Boston in the first round of the playoffs.

Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo picked bad nights for clunkers.

Adebayo opened 1 for 7, including an air ball on a short jumper. Butler opened 1 for 3 with four turnovers, a missed dunk and a pass into the stands.

At the moment the Heat’s two leading men had those precise statistics, Dallas had opened up a 58-38 first half lead, thanks to 10 for 19 first half shooting and typical big nights from Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving.

By the time it reached halftime, Dallas led 69-47, and Doncic and Irving had outscored Butler and Adebayo 40-10. Butler had eight, Adebayo two in that brutal first half.

Butler took only five first shots before intermission and closed with just 12 points (5 for 8 shooting) with four rebounds, three assists and five turnovers in 36 minutes.

Doesn’t Butler need to take more than eight shots?

“We all understand how important it is to get Jimmy going,” Erik Spoelstra said. “He understands it. The team understands it. Some nights like this you are going to have to figure out a away to get it done and he will muster a way to get it done down the stretch.”

Adebayo went 1 for 9 in the first half and finished 3 for 13 from the field, with just eight points and three rebounds in 27 minutes.

Kevin Love spearheaded a 16-6 run that drew Miami to within 13 late in the third. But Miami went to the fourth still down 14, even with Irving going scoreless in the third and Doncic scoring just six in the third.

A three by Tyler Herro pulled the Heat to within 94-86 with 8:42 left.

But the Heat then went cold (two points in more than four minutes) and Dallas went on a 7-2 run to go up 101-88 with five minutes left. And the Heat was done.

The Mavericks won for the 16th time in 18 games.

“We didn’t come out with as much intensity as we should have,” Adebayo said. “We have to be better than that.”

The Heat couldn’t capitalize on Doncic’s early foul trouble.

Doncic scored 13 points on 5 for 7 shooting to help Dallas take a 20-18 early lead.

But when he was forced to the bench with his third foul with 3:46 left in the first quarter, Irving took over where Doncic left off, scoring 12 in a row to push the Mavericks’ lead to 35-24 after a quarter.

By the time Doncic returned, Dallas was up 42-29 with 8:44 left in the second quarter. The Mavs then outscored Miami 27-18 to close the second quarter, with Doncic scoring six to go to the half with 19, and Irving entering the half with 21 points.

Doncic (averaging 34 points per game) and Irving (26 per game) entered as the league’s highest-scoring duo.

Doncic finished with 29 on 9 for 23 shooting, with nine rebounds and nine assists.

Irving closed with 25 (just four in the second half) on 10 for 15 shooting.

Asked what bothered the team in particular about Wednesday’s performance, Herro cited “the overall energy and approach to the game. We didn’t approach the game right. We felt like we could have brought more focus and more to the game.”

This was another night the Heat’s offensive talent deficit against elite offensive players was crystallized.

Here’s a stat: At home this season against teams with sure-fire Hall of Famers, some of the elite scorers of our generation, the Heat entered 2-8 and a minus 94 entering tonight.

The wins were against the Lakers and LeBron James and the 76ers and Joel Embiid, both before the calendar turned to 2024.

The eight losses were against Philadelphia, two to Boston (and Jayson Tatum), one to Steph Curry and Golden State, another to Kevin Durant and Phoenix, another to Nikola Jokic and Denver, another to Kawhi Leonard and James Harden and the Clippers and another to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard and Milwaukee.

It’s now 2-9 after Wednesday’s shellacking against future Hall of Famer Doncic and elite scorer Irving.

During those 11 games, Miami has been outscored by 114 points.

The message here: There’s only so long the Heat can bang its head against a wall and expect to beat elite offensive teams without elite offensive talent of its own.

On Wednesday, only Love (16 points on 6 for 9 shooting in 18 minutes) and Herro (21 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) played especially well offensively.

The Heat (44-36) fell to 17-27 against teams with winning records. What’s more, Miami is just 20-19 at home, with two games remaining at home against Toronto on Friday night and against the Raptors again at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Herro continued to play well, but Miami can’t seem to get Herro and Terry Rozier on the court together.

After Herro missed 20 games with a foot injury, there was initial thought to not playing him in back to back games.

But Herro woke up feeling no worrisome discomfort after scoring 33 points in 48 minutes of Tuesday’s double overtime win in Atlanta.

Herro had indicated Tuesday that a doctor had thought it wasn’t best for him to play in back-to-backs, at least not yet, after his foot injury. But all parties agreed Wednesday that he would play.

“We wanted to be responsible with the decisions,” Erik Spoelstra said. “You never know until you go through the day of treatment.”

Herro helped fuel a fourth quarter rally and finished 6 for 15 from the field. “I felt great,” he said of the foot.

With Rozier missing a second consecutive game with a sore neck, Spoelstra opted for Patty Mills after using Delon Wright as his reserve point guard on Tuesday.

Mills scored seven points in 11 minutes.

Wright didn’t play, a curious decision considering he’s a skilled defender and Miami had no answers defensively for Irving.

As for Rozier, he will play again “as soon as he gets relief,” Spoelstra said. “His neck is really jacked up right now. He’s need to calm [it] down. Neck or back pain, it takes time. He’s doing everything he needs to do. One of those things where you wake up one day and it’s gone.”

Herro lamented how the injuries - including his own - have been a detriment offensively. “There’s no way we can get to our identity if we don’t have our team,” Herro said.