Even the Heat, the NBA’s best shooting team, hadn’t seen something like this:
An opponent shooting 79 percent overall in the first quarter, making nine of its first 12 three-pointers and not even dipping below 60 percent from the field until late in the third quarter.
The Heat ultimately had no answers to stop Golden State’s Stephen Curry or David Lee, and Miami then missed several makeable shots late — including four layups — in succumbing 123-114 in an immensely entertaining game Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
In scoring the most points by a Heat opponent this season, the Warriors closed at 56.1 percent from the field and 51.7 (15 for 29) from three-point range.
Curry (36 points, 12 assists) was a maestro, becoming only the third player with at least 35 points and a dozen assists against Miami, joining Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson.
“He controlled the tempo of the game,” LeBron James said. “One of the best shooters the NBA will see. The light he has is more than green — it’s florescent.”
Curry and Lee (32 points, 14 rebounds) were virtually unstoppable most of the night and delivered two late daggers to thwart a Heat rally.
“They played a heck of a game; they deserved to win,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
It was an uneven night for James, who scored 26 but also committed eight turnovers and missed two free throws with a chance to slice the Warriors’ lead to four with 3:16 left.
Chris Bosh scored 19 but had just four rebounds and shot below 50 percent from the field (6 for 16) for the first time in 11 games, preventing him from setting a career mark.
Dwyane Wade scored 22 but even he did something you rarely see: missing a layup, all alone, in transition, in the third quarter.
Ultimately, though, this mostly wasn’t about the Heat’s offense, with Miami closing at 51.3 percent from the field.
The Heat lost this game on the defensive end, victimized not only by Curry and Lee, but also Klay Thompson (16 points, four three-pointers) and Harrison Barnes (15 points). Curry went off after halftime, scoring 22 points, including 14 in the third on a bunch of long jumpers, several with a hand in his face.
“You can’t defend that,” Mario Chalmers said. “He hit a lot of tough shots.”
Curry finished 8 of 15 from three-point range. The Heat shot 8 of 18 on threes as a team.
“At one point, he was 7 of 13 from the three-point line and I was 7 of 12 from the field,” James said.
Said Bosh: “Curry made us a little hesitant. Sometimes he shot it, sometimes he passed it, which makes it equally dangerous.”
The Heat closed to 111-107 with less than five minutes left after a James three-pointer and a long stepback two. But Bosh’s jumper rimmed out, James was stripped by Curry and on Miami’s next possession, James missed two free throws before a Curry three pushed the margin to 116-107.
Bosh then missed a layup, and Lee extended the lead back to double figures with a finger roll. That essentially settled matters.
“Our offense going down the stretch got us in trouble,” Spoelstra said.
It didn’t help that Golden State outrebounded Miami 40-31.
The Warriors’ 78.9 percent shooting in the first quarter was the second-highest by any team this season, and their power rotation starters — Lee and Andrew Bogut — combined to make their first eight shots, with Lee hitting five of them.
Lee, an efficient low-post player with a solid midrange jumper, carved out favorable position in the paint against Shane Battier, who is one inch shorter and 20 pounds lighter. Lee also got free when the Heat sent a second defender at Curry.
Ahead 65-61 at halftime, the Warriors opened the third quarter on a 9-0 run, and the Heat could never fully climb out of its hole. Golden State shot only 11 for 24 (45.8 percent) in the third, but Curry kept hitting contested jumpers.
The Heat (24-8) lost for only the third time in 17 home games and dropped 1 1/2 games behind Indiana for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Warriors “pretty much got everything they wanted,” Bosh said. “They hit some tough shots but also got some open looks, and that really crushed us.”
In a change to his rotation, Spoelstra used Michael Beasley in the first half instead of Rashard Lewis — a departure from past games, when he used both of them or only Lewis.
Chris Andersen, who missed the previous three games with what the team dubbed general soreness, returned but was less impactful than usual, corralling only two rebounds and missing his only shot from the field in 17 minutes.