The Heat beat the Warriors Wednesday night in Miami, 126–125, in an outrageously fun basketball game. The Heat led by as many as 24 points, but the Warriors, who very often cruise distractedly through big chunks of regular season games, roared back into it and had the lead in the final minute of regulation.
Before we get to the bonkers finish, here is a video of Kevin Durant getting violently and-one dunked on by Bam Adebayo, for your viewing pleasure:
So satisfying. That was the second quarter, when the Heat were running out to their big lead. But the Warriors have a way of making first-half deficits vanish, although in tonight’s case it wasn’t by throwing one huge tsunami-esque run at the Heat. They methodically chipped Miami’s lead down to eight by the end of the third quarter, then worked the score even by about the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter. The teams traded mini-runs from there, but Golden State had their biggest lead of the game, four points, with 1:07 left on the clock. The lead was back to four points 49 seconds later, after Jordan Bell sank a pair of free throws with 18 seconds left in the game. The Warriors being who they are, that’s an overwhelming position of strength.
But that’s also when old man Dwyane Wade, who finished with 25 points off the bench, hauled his team up on his back for a little clutch magic. Following a timeout the Heat ran a nifty little sideline inbounds play to get Wade a clean look at a three from above the break, which he buried:
The Heat had to foul on the ensuing Warriors possession, which generally is a losing proposition, because the Warriors have several of the best free throw shooters in basketball. Indeed, the person the Heat were forced to foul, Kevin Durant, is a career 88 percent free throw shooter. But Durant (a fraud?) (investigate?) choked at the line and missed the first freebie, setting the Heat up with a final possession where any made bucket would push the game to overtime, and a three would win it.
Whatever the hell play Erik Spoelstra drew up, it sure as hell didn’t look like this:
Nothing about this play went right, except that the ball eventually went into the basket. Wade drove into Andre Iguodala, one of the NBA’s best on-ball defensive players, and got himself into trouble. With nowhere to go, he had to shovel it off to Dion Waiters, with two Warriors defenders completely denying any hope of a decent look. Waiters’s jump pass back to Wade gave Durant time to rotate over and force Wade into a pump fake, which then gave Bell a chance to dart over and block Wade’s ensuing off-balance three-point shot. At this point the play had failed, and pretty spectacularly. Notice, if you will, that Wade hadn’t even gathered the ball after Bell’s block when the clock read 00.8. But somehow between then and the final buzzer he managed to get enough control of it to square his shoulders and launch the ball at the hoop. Here’s another, very cool angle:
This is Wade’s farewell season, and it will have few if any better moments than this one. And by “this one” I of course mean when Kevin Durant got dunked on and then missed an important free throw that directly contributed to a Warriors loss. But the game-winner was also pretty neat.