Heat take eight-game road slide into Kings' castle
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A team that often can't win at home will face off against a team that no longer can win on the road Wednesday night when the Sacramento Kings host the Miami Heat at the Golden 1 Center.
But who says winning on the road is a requirement for a playoff bid in the Eastern Conference?
The Heat (36-32) bring an eight-game road losing skid into their contest with the Western Conference's third-worst team, but are still comfortably in position to be earn one of the eight postseason spots in the East. Miami, in eighth place, leads the Detroit Pistons by 5 1/2 games with 14 to go.
With only six of those against playoff contenders -- four at home and none against the Pistons -- Miami really needs only to take care of business against the lightweights.
There is that road thing looming going into the contest against Sacramento and a last-second 89-88 loss to the Kings at home Jan. 25 also has lingered in the Heat's minds. Miami hasn't won away from home since Jan. 29 in Dallas.
"It's going to be important, because we didn't start the road trip well," Heat guard Goran Dragic told the Miami Herald after the Heat's 115-99 loss at the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday. "They are going to play with basically nothing to lose. They're already out."
By contrast, the Heat stand four games behind the third-seeded Indiana Pacers and find themselves only two back of Southeast Division-leading Washington Wizards.
Against Sacramento, Miami will need better efforts from its cast of youngsters. Dragic, the team's leading scorer (17.2 points per game) put up 23 against Portland, but forward Josh Richardson, guard Tyler Johnson and center Bam Adebayo combined to make 9 of 31 shots from the field. None of the three have three years experience.
Adebayo, the rookie center, went 1-for-10 while starting in place of Hassan Whiteside, the former Kings draft pick who will miss his third straight game. Veteran guard Dwyane Wade won't play for the second straight contest because of a strained left hamstring.
"You don't have to play perfect basketball, but you have to play with that competitive edge to give yourself a legitimate chance to win on the road," Heat coach Eric Spoelstra told the Miami Herald. "And we're capable of that."
The Kings (21-47) will take wins anywhere they can get them. Sacramento hasn't won consecutive contests since that earlier victory over Miami, secured when rookie guard De'Aaron Fox scored on a put-back dunk with 3 seconds left to cap a rally from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit.
Fox has scored double digits in eight of nine games since the All-Star break and 16 of 19 he's played since that contest in Miami. He and guard Bogdan Bogdanovic have fueled the offense since the break. Bogdanovic broke out of a two-game shooting slump (5-for-22) with a 6-for-11 effort and 19-point night in Sacramento's 106-101 loss at Oklahoma City on Monday.
As usual, the talk around Sacramento continues to be about effort. The Kings have 15 games left in a season that's essentially been about playing out the string since the All-Star break.
"At the end of the day, it's not always schemes and things like that," Fox told the Sacramento Bee. "Sometimes, it's just the effort that you give."
Updated March 13, 2018