The New Orleans Pelicans remained consistently inconsistent.
Their 102-96 loss to the Miami Heat on Sunday night in the Smoothie King Center extended to 10 games a stretch in which they have alternated wins and losses.
The Pelicans (15-16), who defeated Oklahoma City 118-114 at home Wednesday, were coming off their first break of more than one day between games in five weeks.
Coach Alvin Gentry gave the team off of practice Thursday and Friday and called Saturday’s practice the Pelicans’ best this season “by far.”
But it didn’t translate to the court Sunday as Miami (13-16) used a balanced scoring attack and a huge rebounding advantage to finish 4-2 on its road trip.
“We had three days to prepare for this and we were fresher than we have been,” Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday said. “It’s frustrating. We’d rather figure it out sooner than later.
“We’ve been playing really, really hard and we played really, really hard tonight. I think we’re going to turn the corner really soon.”
Josh Richardson led Miami with 22 points, Dwyane Wade added 19 points, Hassan Whiteside had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Tyler Johnson scored 15 and Derick Jones Jr. 11 for the Heat.
Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 27 points and 12 rebounds, but he took just four shots in the second half, none in the third quarter.
“They started sending two guys at him at all times,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “He had seven assists. He’s not going to take bad shots.”
Holiday scored 22 points before fouling out and Julius Randle had 17 points and 10 rebounds before limping to the locker room with a sprained right ankle midway through the fourth quarter. He was on crutches in the locker room. E’Twaun Moore scored 11 and Solomon Hill 10.
Moore returned after a three-game absence due to a calf strain, but Nikola Mirotic missed his third consecutive game because of a sprained ankle.
The Heat finished with a 57-38 rebounding advantage, including a 22-11 edge in offensive rebounds.
“They had a lot of offensive rebounds,” Holiday said. “The guards didn’t come in and help (Davis and Randle). We needed to make an adjustment and we never did.”
The Pelicans lead the NBA in points in the paint and had 74 against Oklahoma City, but just 42 against Miami.
“They’re one of the better teams in the NBA at taking away the paint,” Gentry said of the Heat. “They’re going to sell out in the paint and they’re not going to let you take the ball to the basket. When you drive and kick you have to hit shots.”
New Orleans, which shot 40.7 percent from the floor, was playing its last home game before Christmas as it begins a four-game road trip at Milwaukee on Wednesday.
The Heat led by six points at halftime and quickly expanded the margin at the start of the third quarter.
Johnson made two 3-pointers and Richardson made one as Miami scored the first 11 points of the quarter to take a 68-51 lead.
New Orleans negated that push as Randle scored seven points and the Pelicans climbed within 72-66.
They got as close as five points before four free throws by Wade and two by Kelly Olynyk gave the Heat an 85-73 lead after three quarters.
Holiday’s 3-pointer started the fourth-quarter scoring, but that was New Orleans’ only basket during the first six minutes.
Miami only made two field goals during the same time frame so when Davis made a 3-pointer with 5:41 left, the Pelicans trailed just 89-81, but Richardson answered with a 3-pointer.
New Orleans twice got within six points, but couldn’t get any closer until the final eight seconds.
“We had a lot of open shots that we missed,” Holiday said. “They executed well down the stretch.”