MIAMI (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – With 22 games remaining on the schedule, the Miami Heat realize that the margin for error is shrinking by the day.
The Heat cannot afford to drop multiple games to sub-.500 teams as they attempt to move up the Eastern Conference standings and will try to avoid two such setbacks in a row when they host the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.
The Heat had a three-game winning streak come to an end with a 96-89 loss at Dallas on Monday.
Miami won 16 of its last 19 games to crawl into contention but all three of the losses in that span were to teams well out of the race, including a 117-109 setback at Philadelphia on Feb. 11.
The Heat were outscored 12-0 over the final 4 1/2 minutes in Dallas on Monday and struggled to explain why after the contest.
“We crawled and scratched and clawed to get that five-point lead and we just didn’t get clean looks after that,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. “We’ve shown so much more poise going down the stretch than we did tonight.”
The 76ers are still fighting for wins but are facing an uphill battle every game with star rookie center Joel Embiid (knee) sitting out, and they dropped a 119-108 decision to Golden State on Monday despite holding Stephen Curry to 0-of-11 from 3-point range.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, CSN Philadelphia, FSN Sun (Miami)
ABOUT THE 76ERS (22-37): Philadelphia placed seven scorers in double figures while halting Miami’s 13-game winning streak with that Feb. 11 triumph, including 19 points in 26 minutes off the bench from Dario Saric.
The rookie power forward has taken on an even bigger role since the 76ers traded away Ersan Ilyasova and is averaging 20 points in three games since moving into the starting lineup after the All-Star break.
Saric had a string of four straight double-doubles come to an end on Monday but filled up the boxscore with 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
ABOUT THE HEAT (27-33): Miami had a string of 16 straight games scoring at least 100 points come to an end on Monday but center Hassan Whiteside still managed to have a big game with 19 points and 19 rebounds.
The 27-year-old, who leads the NBA in rebounding at an average of 14.1, is averaging 15.8 boards in 11 games this month and pulled down at least 17 in four of the last six contests.
“What I love about him is he has an approach that he wants to get better,” Spoelstra told reporters of Whiteside, according to the Miami Herald. “He wants to learn. He wants to really take the responsibility of impacting winning. He’s one of our best players and so you can get better during that. I think in the last six weeks he’s played the best winning basketball he’s ever played in a Miami Heat uniform. It’s not his best statistical stretch and he loves it.”
- Heat PF Willie Reed (ankle) sat out Monday and is day-to-day.
- Philadelphia SF Robert Covington is 4-of-18 from 3-point range over the last two games.
- The home team took each of the last four in the series, including Miami’s 125-102 triumph on Feb. 4.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)