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Miami Heat starts season with 3 clutch games

There are two sides to almost everything.

There were two sides to the Heat’s (1-2) home opener against the Hornets on Saturday. The first half that Charlotte dominated and the second half that Miami dominated, which nearly canceled each other out but resulted in a last-second one-point win for the Hornets.

There were two sides to the Heat’s play Saturday. Miami’s defense allowed Charlotte to score 72 on 56.5 percent shooting in the first half and then Miami’s defense tightened up to limit Charlotte to 41 points on 31.9 percent shooting in the second half

And there are two sides to being involved in a lot of close games. You’re going to win some and you’re usually going to lose almost that same amount because a game that comes down to the final seconds and is decided by a few points is a tossup that tends to even out over time.

Well, the Heat has lived off close games recently. After playing in a league-high 53 clutch games — defined by the NBA as a game that has a margin of five points or fewer inside the final five minutes of the fourth quarter — last season, Miami has begun this season with three consecutive clutch games that have been decided by a total of five points.

“That’s how it was when I came back last year,” guard Dwyane Wade said of this trend, with the Heat’s next game Wednesday against the Knicks at AmericanAirlines Arena. “That’s how it was when I watched the team from afar. That’s the way it’s going to be here and we talked about it before the game, ‘It’s going to be a close game, no matter what happens in between those 48 minutes.’ We play close games for the most part. Every now and again, we’re going to have a stinker. But we play close games.”

Since the start of the 2016-17 season, the Heat is 51-49 in clutch games. In other words, these games can go either way.

For Miami to really separate itself from the .500 mark and make a run at a top four seed in the Eastern Conference, playing in a lot of close games is not the formula. That’s only going to pull the Heat closer to .500.

It’s not a coincidence the Warriors, Jazz and Rockets — three of the best teams in the league — were the ones that participated in the fewest amount of clutch games last season. It’s usually really good teams or really bad teams that don’t participate in many close games because they are either cruising to easy wins or on the wrong end of lopsided scores most nights.

“One thing about this team, that’s one thing I’m not worried about,” Wade said when asked how playing in all of these clutch games is going to impact Miami moving forward. “We just got to figure out a way to win more. Last year we were in a lot of close games, probably the most in the NBA. You want to win at least five to 10 more of those.

“So, I’m not worried about this team’s heart, this team’s effort, none of that. That’s going to be there. You just want to figure out a way to come out with these kind of wins so you can, instead of having 43 wins, you end up winning five to seven more, you get close to 50 wins. That’s what we got to try to figure out.”

To do that, the Heat needs to find a way to earn some wins that don’t require last-second heroics.

But the Heat isn’t off to a great start with that. After playing in a franchise-record 10 one-point games last season, Miami has already been a part of two through three games this year.

For the first time in Heat history, the first three games of their season have been decided by three points or fewer this year.

The positive takeaway is Miami isn’t getting blown out very much. After all, there are two sides to almost everything.

“We have a very competitive group in that locker room, as we all know,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Our guys will keep digging, scratching, crawling. We have to understand how each possession does matter and come out with that kind of disposition to start and make sure it’s consistent all the way through. But that doesn’t guarantee you anything.”

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