(AP) — The Miami Heat lost their last game when a comeback didn’t wipe out a very slow start.
The New Orleans Pelicans lost their last game after running out of gas in the fourth quarter.
Both teams will be looking for a more consistent performance when they meet Wednesday in New Orleans.
Miami never led Monday against the host Atlanta Hawks and fell behind by as many as 26 points in the first half. The Heat got as close as seven points in the third quarter and remained in striking distance for part of the fourth before falling, 121-113.
“Tale of two halves,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We just couldn’t quite get it over the hump. There were too many mistakes to overcome in the second half.
“You could see it. You could feel it. It’s not rocket science. We brought a less-than-best effort and focus in the first half.”
The Heat welcomed back from injury starters Tyler Herro (15 points) and Caleb Martin (seven points). They’re still missing another starter — Kyle Lowry, who’s day-to-day and is on the road trip that concludes Saturday in Dallas.
“It’s only going to get better,” said Jimmy Butler, who led Miami with 34 points against Atlanta. “We want those guys to catch a rhythm. We want them to be healthy and comfortable. We need those guys out there.”
The Pelicans are still waiting to welcome back three of their injured starters — Brandon Ingram (toe), who hasn’t played since November; Zion Williamson (hamstring), who has missed the last seven games; and Herbert Jones (back), who has missed the last three. Jones seems to have the best chance of the three to play Wednesday.
New Orleans finished 2-3 on its longest road trip of the season when it fell at Cleveland 113-103 on Monday. The Pelicans led by three points after three quarters but got outscored 35-22 in the fourth even though the Cavaliers’ Donovan Mitchell sat out the final period after straining a groin.
“We’ve not been lucky with injuries,” said Jonas Valanciunas, who had 22 points and 13 rebounds. “We’re missing really important guys, missing our core. It’s been tough, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. You have to keep pushing and try to play through it.”
Cleveland took control with a 16-2 run to start the fourth quarter as New Orleans didn’t make a field goal until the period was more than halfway over.
“I thought we kind of ran out of gas,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “We just weren’t as forceful as we needed to be. When we ran plays and played with force, we executed. When we didn’t, we kind of played into their hands.”
With the other starters out, New Orleans had to lean on Valanciunas and CJ McCollum, who had 25 points.
“With guys being out, he is a force in the post,” Green said of Valanciunas. “We can throw the ball to him in the post. He settles us down offensively. He makes plays from that position. He rebounds the ball. He makes the right plays.”
–Field Level Media