Updated: January 12, 2013, 6:39 PM ET

1. Heat Lose Control Down The Stretch

By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com

PORTLAND, Ore. -- This was supposed to be about changing the conversation.

For the previous 48 hours, so much talk around the Miami Heat had been focused on their rebounding woes, their struggles on the road, their lack of consistency on offense and their interest in marginal, out-of-work free agents.

The Heat's game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday was supposed to be an opportunity to change the subject and start a fresh dialogue.

Holding a 12-point lead with eight minutes left, LeBron James approaching a triple-double, Chris Bosh having his most aggressive offensive game in weeks and Dwyane Wade continuing to attack, the Heat were where they wanted to be.

Nicolas Batum
AP Photo/Don RyanNicolas Batum and the Blazers rallied late.

Nearly an hour later, Heat players and coaches were sitting in the cramped visitors locker room trying to find the right words to describe just how the Blazers rallied from a double-digit deficit in a stunning 92-90 victory.

"We understand that it hurts right now," said James, who saw his streak of 54 consecutive games with at least 20 points end when he finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in 43 minutes. "We played good enough to win, but not great enough to win."

Instead of the conversation changing, a few troubling trends continued as the Heat fell to 0-2 at the start of their six-game road trip. They have lost five of their past eight and are in the midst of their most frustrating stretch of the season. If the Heat were flirting with adversity before Thursday's loss, they've moved on to the stage of engagement.

"We played the game we wanted to play," Wade said. "Obviously, it wasn't in the cards."

The Heat were dealing from a different, more favorable deck and still couldn't come up with the combination for victory. Having been pounded on the boards in some recent losses, Miami matched Portland's rebounding total of 45.

It wasn't enough.

The Heat defense was active and applied pressure for most of the game, generating nine steals and six blocks, and holding the Blazers to just 37.5 percent shooting from the field.

And even that wasn't enough.

"When you're up double digits, you think you have a chance, with our experience, to put a team away, and we didn't," Erik Spoelstra said. "It's a tough loss, no doubt about it. Our guys are definitely disappointed about that. Seven minutes to go, we think we're taking control of the game in the fourth quarter and gaining some confidence in our defense, and then we just slipped a little bit."

Now, the Heat are sliding.

"You can't beat yourself up because you want it so bad," Wade said about the Heat, who are 7-8 on the road and now move on to Sacramento to play the Kings on Saturday. "But these are the kind of games when you say, 'Listen, the team beat us when we played our game, and a good game.'"

It was a game in which James had two attempts in the final possessions to get that coveted 10th assist to secure the triple-double. But Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers both missed wide-open looks from 3-point range, although Bosh would have had the assist on Chalmers' shot.

It was a night when Bosh demanded the ball -- and got it plenty -- on the way to scoring 29 points on 13-of-18 shooting to jump-start the Heat's offense when it stalled. But with a chance to tie the game and potentially send it to overtime, Bosh passed up what might have been a contested jumper to swing the ball out to Chalmers for the 3-pointer that would have won the game.

Bosh's decision and explanation afterward were similar to last season in Utah, when James passed to Udonis Haslem instead of taking the final shot to win the game.

"Wide-open 3 as opposed to a contested 2," Bosh said of passing to ball. "I'll take that [play] every time."

Much like James last season, Bosh is convinced he made the right play. The Heat were willing to live with the results.

Still, the defending champs are on the proverbial ropes right now -- at least as much as they can be in the regular season. The losses are growing more difficult to explain.

"We'll have to live with that for 48 hours," Spoelstra said.

Bosh agreed.

There was a time not long ago when the Heat were able to win games even when they didn't play necessarily well. Now, they can't steal one even when they're well in control.

"Eventually," he said. "We have to figure it out."

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