The Miami Heat visited the West's worst team on Saturday night, the Utah Jazz, and in a stunning result the reigning champs were held under 90 points for just the third time this season in the 94-89 setback.
The other two times came against top defenses in the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 5 and the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 10. The Jazz rank 27th in opponents' field-goal percentage.
Utah's Marvin Williams played out of his mind with 23 points, his third game in a row with at least 20. His back-to-back three-pointers around the four-minute mark stretched the lead to eight and buried Miami. Gordon Hayward flirted with a triple-double on nine points, 11 assists, nine rebounds and three steals.
The Jazz (17-33) had lost four straight and rank dead last in defensive efficiency per NBA.com, yet they held LeBron James to 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting and forced five turnovers out of the four-time MVP. Dwyane Wade led Miami with 19 points, and Chris Bosh added 13 with seven boards in the losing effort.
The Heat (35-14) spanked Utah at home by 23 points on Dec. 16, but it was a much different story from the start of this one. The Jazz opened a 32-18 lead in the first quarter but led by only two at halftime. The Heat pulled ahead 54-52 early in the third quarter, but Utah quickly regained the lead and held off the Big Three.
The result was not completely unprecedented, as Utah downed the Oklahoma City Thunder in Salt Lake City on Jan. 7, 112-101. While the Jazz can play well in spurts, holding Miami to 39 points in the second half and 43 percent shooting for the game was extremely unexpected.
Player grades start at a C+ for a decent overall performance. That increases and decreases based on the quality of each player's contributions. We'll put role players on the grading curve.
Instead of gold stars and frowny faces, here are grades for every Heat player.
Key Player Grades
LeBron James, Power Forward
LeBron's only field goal of the second half came with 11:14 remaining in the third quarter. He scored only two more points in the game, both on free throws.
This was tantamount to a disappearing act. James at least kept his double-digit scoring streak intact, and he added on seven rebounds and five assists.
However, he was responsible for half of the Heat's 10 turnovers, and he bricked five of his six attempts from downtown. He also did not record a block or a steal.
There was one pretty highlight in the second quarter, but this was a disappointing showing from James.
In a series of postgame tweets from Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick, LeBron confirmed that this was not a trap game for the Heat: "We did not take them lightly. We do not take anyone lightly...We didn't make shots all night, and that's what it came down to."
Spoelstra on LeBron: "It's just one of those days. You're not going to play great every single night."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) February 9, 2014
Well, yes, but we're talking about the Utah Jazz here.
Dwyane Wade, Shooting Guard
Wade notched a team-high 19 points and canned half of his 14 field-goal attempts. He also snagged six rebounds, but even D-Wade could not will Miami to victory.
The Heat looked out of sync for much of the game, and only their 30-point second quarter seemed like the genuine article for the back-to-back title winners. Wade scored eight of his points in the fourth quarter, but his teammates couldn't emulate that effort.
Chris Bosh, Center
Bosh's shot might be on the back of a milk carton after this game. Bosh missed nine of 11 shots against the New York Knicks on Feb. 1, and against the weak D of Utah, he misfired on nine of his 12 field-goal tries.
He finished with unlucky 13 in points and tallied seven rebounds. He also added an emphatic block on Enes Kanter, but that wasn't worth any points to the Heat.
This was a case of a younger, quicker team simply out-hustling Miami. The Jazz outscored, outshot and out-rebounded them, with the 10-5 margin on the offensive glass looming particularly large.
Mario Chalmers, Point Guard
Mario Chalmers played well. He scored a dozen points on 4-of-6 shooting and dished seven dimes while committing only one turnover.
However, Rio is the starting point guard, and it's his job to find the hot hand and get his talented teammates cooking. That never happened down the stretch, and to reiterate, no defense in the league allows more points per 100 possessions than Utah's.
The loss is inexplicable considering the Heat were not resting their players or missing any of the significant contributors.
Shane Battier, Small Forward
Shane Battier was his usual pesky self on Saturday, and he did a little bit of everything over his 25 minutes. He scored eight points on a pair of threes and a pair of free throws. He handed out three assists and purloined a pair of steals.
However, Battier is not the guy to jump-start the offense. He's mainly there to wait for corner threes and draw charges.
Rest of Bench
Norris Cole provided a great spark off the bench, and if the Heat had four more Norris Coles, they would have won this game. He scored 12 points and came up with four steals.
Ray Allen hit a couple of big shots down the stretch despite finishing with only nine points. He made a running bank shot with two minutes and 22 seconds to play that trimmed the deficit to four points, then he drained a triple inside of a minute left to make it a two-point affair.
#HEATgame: Ray Allen for threeeeeee! HEAT down 2 with 40 seconds on the clock.— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) February 9, 2014
Then a jumper from rookie Trey Burke all but sealed the deal. Perhaps Allen should have waited until after the game to give the kid a few pointers. Burke finished with 13 points.
Ray Allen sat down with Trey Burke for 15 minutes before the game. Here what Ray told Trey exclusively on Jazz radio 97.5 FM at 6:50— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) February 9, 2014
Greg Oden continues to provide subtle effectiveness in small bursts. He saw just shy of 11 minutes and came up with four rebounds, a steal and a block.
Chris Andersen played for 18:28 and came up with three of Miami's five offensive boards. He contributed three points, four fouls and five rebounds to round out a solid effort from the Heat bench.
The Heat continue their six-game road swing with a back-to-back against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday and Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.
The Jazz also have a back-to-back on the exact same days when they visit the L.A. Lakers before hosting the Philadelphia 76ers. Then the All-Star Game interrupts the season.