Dec 27, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) loses the ball against Miami Heat small forward Michael Beasley (8) during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Sacramento Kings defeated the Miami Heat 108-103 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat: Playing With Fire

You can almost call the script every time; the Miami Heat come up against a team they should beat easily, they know should beat them easily and take their foot off the pedal. The underdog team plays hard and builds up a lead or cancels out a deficit, then Miami realize they are in trouble and crank up the pressure to come up with the win. But there are moments at times when that doesn’t quite work out. The opposition answers a big play with another big play of their own or shots simply aren’t falling and the Heat get burned for their lethargic play.

The most recent example of Miami’s lackluster performance was Friday night against the Sacramento Kings when the Heat looked a completely different team during the second half at the Sleep Train Arena.

After opening up a double digit lead at the break, the Miami Heat allowed the Kings to grab a stronghold in the contest and fight their way back to force a nerve racking finish.  No doubt that was frustrating for Heat fans to watch since they were seemingly on their way to a seventh straight victory after LeBron James’ 19 point scoring spree in the first half.

Erik Spoelstra’s team could have even sealed it at the death, but some sloppy turnovers and iffy shot selection by James, as he forced away teammates to take a contested 3 pointer, allowed the Kings to take the game into overtime and complete the comeback for a 108-103 win in the extra period despite LeBron’s 3 point barrage.

It could be argued that Miami were shorthanded since they were missing three key players in Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen against a Sacramento team that isn’t exactly a pushover, but this isn’t the first time Miami has given up leads when they had the game firmly in their hands. The Heat gave up a 20 point third quarter lead on the road to Toronto Nov. 29 but escaped with the win because the Raptors couldn’t make a free throw.

The Kings game was only the one of many lapses of concentration during games that have cost the defending champions in 2013-14.The majority of Miami’s seven losses have come in that fashion, especially in the first loss of the season against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Well Fargo Arena. Perhaps still basking in the glory of mauling Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls on opening night, Miami quickly found themselves in a deep whole, trailing by 21 points less than six minutes into the game. This was due to some sloppy, lethargic play on both sides of the court and the Sixers punished them.

As expected Miami came roaring back and eventually took the lead, but Philly closed the game strongly and Miami had no answer down the stretch, handing the Heat a 114-110 loss.

Lethargic play and sloppiness was the theme again, versus the young and undermanned Boston Celtics team (minus Rajon Rondo), but they were able to pull off a surprise victory nonetheless.

The Celtics went toe to toe with Miami and put up 111 points, including a buzzer beating corner 3-pointer to win the game by Jeff Green, after he got away from LeBron James. That led to  James blasting his team for a lack of effort and commitment on the defensive end of the court.

Miami has made a habit of turning up the pressure when they need to, even last season, the Heat came back from 20-plus deficits on several occasions to stun the opposition on their way to the history books during the 27-game winning streak. It’s that sort of knowledge that allows them to keep calm when they are in holes. But as the saying goes, “if you play with fire, you will get burned,” and so far the Heat have come out relatively unscathed as they currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference. Although come Playoff time, they may regret the games where they took it easy and paid for it with losses, especially if the seemingly destined match-up against Indiana comes to a game seven in Indianapolis, rather than South Beach.

Tags: Lebron James Miami Heat

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