heat

LeBron James rewards Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s faith with game-winner

 
 
Miami Heat's LeBron James, left, drives the ball against Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Oakland, Calif.
Miami Heat's LeBron James, left, drives the ball against Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Oakland, Calif.
Ben Margot / AP

jgoodman@MiamiHerald.com

It was one heck of a way to begin All-Star Weekend.

With the game clock ticking down Wednesday night in Oakland’s always-ear-popping Oracle Arena, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra thought about calling timeout and taking the ball out of LeBron James’ hands.

Instead, Spoelstra let it ride. It was a good decision.

With the Heat trailing by two, James eyed the basket from above the left break and let time drip down to nothing. Then he stepped back, elevated over Warriors defender Andre Iguodala and won the game. James’ 27-footer went down with one-tenth of a second remaining, and the three-pointer gave the Heat a 111-110 victory against Golden State.

“I made a tough shot,” James said.

That’s one way to put it.

Heat forward Shane Battier, who majored in theology at Duke, wasn’t so understated.

“He just wanted to let it be known that there is a God,” Battier said. “That’s what that was. There is proof in the existence of a God. That guy over there is not by mistake — not by some cosmic mistake. That is part of a grand design somewhere.

“That’s my small religious theory for the evening.”

As far as higher powers go, it was the first game-winning three-pointer of James’ career delivered in the final 10 seconds of a game. According to ESPN Stats and Information, James was 0 for 7 in those situations before his heroics in the Heat’s final game before All-Star Weekend.

Statistics be damned, James said afterward that he was “going for the win the whole time.”

“I just wanted to make sure I made it with little to no time left, or I made it with no time left,” James said. “I was able to stand up and watch it go through. I was fading a little bit, but I was able to follow through. I watched the flight of the ball, and it looked good the whole time.”

The dramatic victory came with Dwyane Wade out of action for the second consecutive night. After missing Tuesday’s game with a migraine headache, Wade was a late scratch Wednesday after his foot went numb before the game.

“It was bizarre stuff,” Wade said. “I started feeling a little something in my foot, getting a little numb before the game, but you don’t think nothing of it. Then as time went on it started going up my leg a little bit, so the nerve of my leg kind of shut down.”

Wade called the condition “drop foot.” Despite the scary incident, he said his plan was to travel to New Orleans for All-Star Weekend and attempt to play in Sunday’s game. Wade has several charity events scheduled for this weekend.

With Wade out, James carried the load offensively for the second night in a row and finished with 36 points before boarding a flight for his 10th All-Star Weekend.

James was 14 of 26 from the field, 4 of 8 from three-point range and 4 of 7 from the free-throw line after scoring 37 points against the Suns on Tuesday. He also had 13 rebounds and nine assists, falling one assist shy of his first triple-double of the season.

In a duel that might carry over to the All-Star Game, James outdid Warriors guard Stephen Curry, but not by much. James had 20 points in the second half and 13 points in the fourth quarter. Curry countered with 19 points in the second half and 10 points in the final period. Had Curry had the ball at the buzzer and not James, the outcome might have been much different.

Curry converted a three-point play with 14.6 seconds left to give Golden State a 110-108 lead. Mario Chalmers fouled Curry during a driving layup attempt, and Curry coolly swished his and-one free throw.

At that point, Spoelstra decided not to call timeout to see if James “could shake free for something easy before they could get their defense set.”

James instead held the ball at the top of the key, live or die.

“I just told them right now in the locker room if I would have realized he was going to work that thing down all the way to the end of the clock, I would have ran out there and screamed a timeout and try to design something,” Spoelstra said. “But once he started to wind it up, I decided I better not break his rhythm.”

The Heat (37-14) led by 21 points with 7:52 left in the third quarter, but the Warriors (31-22) rallied behind the hot hands of guards Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes.

An impressive dunk through Heat defenders by Igoudala put the crowd on its feet, and a three-pointer by Barnes capped the Warriors’ 23-4 run. Ray Allen answered with a three-pointer, but the Heat couldn’t cool off the home team.

Curry made a step-back, 26-foot three-pointer early in the fourth quarter to give Golden State its first lead since the first quarter. Curry followed his three-pointer with a driving layup. To that point, the Warriors had outscored the Heat 41-27 in the second half.

Led by James and Chris Bosh, the Heat countered with an 11-0 run midway through the fourth quarter.

Bosh finished with 19 points. Chalmers had 12 points and seven assists. David Lee had 21 points for the Warriors, and Thompson added 17.

The Heat received noteworthy contributions from reserves Norris Cole and Michael Beasley in the first half. Cole had 10 points, and Beasley scored 12 points in 13 minutes. They combined to go 9 of 12 from the field, and Cole gave the Heat a 14-point lead with 4:10 left in the second quarter when he converted a three-point play against Curry. Beasley, receiving his first significant minutes in eight games, finished with 16 points.

• After the game, Chalmers headed to Las Vegas for some fun during the All-Star break. Other players returned to Miami. James Jones and Roger Mason Jr. were dropped off in New Orleans with James, Wade and Bosh. Jones and Mason have a players’ association meeting to attend this weekend.

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