REYNOLDS ON BASKETBALL: 54-point Heat finally hit rock bottom Print
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Thursday, 20 March 2008 00:42
NBA Headline News

 MIAMI (AP) -When an NBA team can't give its coach at least one point for every birthday candle, then you know things are really going bad.
Historically bad.
Diabolically bad.
Miami Heat bad.
Happy birthday, Pat Riley. The ever-proud, coach and president of the Heat turns 63 on Thursday. He won't forget this one, either: His team scored 54 points in Toronto on Wednesday night, the third-lowest score in the NBA shot-clock era, which began at approximately the same moment that the last peach basket was taken off a backboard.
So in case anyone ever asks the 'What does the man who has everything get for his birthday?' question, Riley can say the answer, apparently, is this: The biggest freefall in the history of basketball. Two years removed from winning the NBA championship, the Heat are the unhealthiest team in the league and unbelievably, the worst team in the league.
Toronto 96, Miami 54.
The lowest score in Heat history. Only the 1998-99 Bulls (49 points against, coincidentally, Miami) and the 2002-03 Nuggets (53 points against Detroit) have done worse.
The worst shooting night - 26 percent - in team history, too.
Let's go out on a limb: Riley's had better birthdays.
``We'll have our day again,'' Riley said. ``I don't know when, but we will have our day again.''
The injury-ravaged lineup the Heat offered Wednesday night wasn't one that wouldn't make the Final Four on anyone's NCAA bracket.
Bobby Jones? Earl Barron? Joel Anthony?
Good guys all, but they won't be confused for Dwyane Wade, Alonzo Mourning and Udonis Haslem - three of the four standout Heat players who all have been shut down for the season with injuries.
Shawn Marion's back is hurting, so he couldn't play. Jason Williams was held out with a thumb injury. The Heat only had seven players available, and even when you factor in the Canadian exchange rate, none of them could make a basket.
Miami missed 10 straight shots against the Raptors. Twice.
Chris Quinn, who played all 48 minutes and led Miami with 14 points, made a jumper with 8:37 left in the half, getting Miami within 16 points. A bad game was about to get ridiculously worse.
Over the next 7 minutes, the Heat went scoreless on 13 straight possessions, giving up 18 unanswered points and falling behind 54-20.
At halftime, the Heat had 26 points. The previous night, when they rallied from a double-digit deficit to win at Milwaukee, they had 28 in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter alone.
``We left everything in Milwaukee,'' Riley said.
Toronto could have only shot half-courters in the final two quarters, missed them all and still won by four. The Raptors had 58 points at halftime. The Heat combined for 12 assists in 240 minutes; Raptors guard Jose Calderon had 10 assists in 25 minutes. And maybe in the most ridiculous stat of all, Miami had more missed shots (58) than points (54).
``No sympathy,'' Raptors forward Chris Bosh said afterward, laughing at the Heat plight.
At long last, the Heat have finally hit rock bottom.
``Embarrassing?'' Haslem said a couple weeks back, repeating the last word of a question posed his way. ``Were you here two months ago? It was embarrassing then. This, man, I've said this before, but did I steal money from someone or something? How is this possible? Do we deserve this? What did we do for this?''
A better question: How do they get out of this?
That process started Feb. 5, when the Heat closed the deal that sent Shaquille O'Neal to the Phoenix Suns for Marion and Marcus Banks. Wade was shut down last week to rehabilitate his surgically repaired left knee and expects to be 100 percent next year, which will obviously help. Haslem's season ended this week because of a bone spur in his ankle and his eyes welled with tears when told he was done.
However, the most crucial part of the rebuilding process continued Thursday when Riley left for another NCAA scouting mission, studying the college standouts who might be Miami's draft pick this summer.
The plan for the Heat - who, as of now, stand the best chance of landing the No. 1 draft pick, thanks to having the league's worst record - is to add an immediate-impact guy who can be paired with Wade and instantly bring the Heat back to respectability.
Maybe next year, it'll be a better birthday.
``I am Pat Riley,'' he says in a video recently produced for the team's season-ticket renewal campaign. ``I'm a winner. I'm a champion. Seven times. And I'm going to do it again. And there's nobody more qualified than me.''
If he fixes this mess, who could argue?
---
Tim Reynolds covers the Miami Heat for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds(at)ap.org.
 

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