Nuisances add up for LeBron James

He even brought up the 0-for-7 effort from 3-point range in the Feb. 16 All-Star Game, in which the league switched from their traditional tank-top jerseys to the sleeved variety in New Orleans. Clearly, James grappled with the uniform attire Thursday as much as he did with the mask or the Spurs, who contributed to his missing 10 of his 11 shot attempts he took outside the paint.

Spurs wings  Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard also had complaints after the game about the jerseys. Still, not every Heat player was as uncomfortable as James.

"That ain't the reason we lost," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "You're just not used to it, that's all. The [Spurs] didn't have a problem with it. It is what it is, man. Let's not make this about a jersey. We got our butt kicked. That's it."

After winning eight in a row, Miami's past two setbacks have had similar scripts.

Slow starts have haunted the Heat both times. They gave up 39 points in the first quarter of Tuesday's loss to the Rockets and surrendered 37 points in the opening period against the Spurs. In both games, the Heat have had to dig themselves out of double-figure deficits to get back into the game.

And both times, they've failed to get completely over the hump and never held a lead at any point against Houston or San Antonio. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra suggested the Heat's defense needs to get back to being as tight and consistent as the sleeved jerseys.

Spoelstra said it's time to kick the tires "and check under the hood" to diagnose the recent lapses.

"We have to wrap our arms around it," Spoelstra said as the Heat try to get back on track Sunday, when the three-game trip ends against Chicago. "We have to look at it, be honest with it, study it and fix it. We have to keep perspective, but we have to get back to who we are -- our identity -- and we're a far cry from that in our last two first quarters. We certainly have to regroup."

James will likely resume wearing the mask Sunday. Spoelstra said James wasn't necessarily cleared medically to play without it, but "it was his decision to throw it off, [and] we didn't throw it back at him."

James anticipated having another battle on his hands over that decision.

"I got frustrated with it early on, so I took it off," James said of the mask he's worn the past five games since breaking his nose Feb. 20 against Oklahoma City. "It's probably a game-to-game thing. I got a message from my wife at halftime telling me to put it back on. So I may be in trouble when I get home."

The Heat will be in just as much trouble if they don't reverse this recent trend.

As far as the jerseys, center Chris Bosh didn't have much of an issue with the fit. Bosh shot 10-of-16 from the field and led the Heat with 24 points in his best outing in five games.

"I'm not as big as LeBron -- his shoulders are a little bit bigger than mine, and he likes to wear smaller sizes," Bosh said, half-jokingly. "He kept saying it was tugging on his underarm a little bit. But like I've always said, I'm more of an old-school-type basketball player. They've been having tank-top jerseys for a hundred years. And they should keep it that way."

James actually perked up when a team trainer told him Thursday was the last game the Heat were required to wear the sleeved jerseys. Thursday was also the last game they have to play in Texas, at least in the regular season.

"After a couple of beatdowns," Bosh said, "you just want to move on."

James isn't too concerned about the slide he's been on this week.

"It's the averages," James said. "I'm OK with that. One thing about me is I'll look at the film, break it down. I missed some shots I'm capable of making -- some really, really good looks. I'll move on to the next one."

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