Midway through the first quarter, Dwyane Wade signaled to Goran Dragic for the basketball.
The Heat’s point guard, not used to seeing the 13-year veteran All-Star ask for lobs, hesitated for a second and then launched a pass from just inside half court.
“It was kind of a unique situation because I saw his hand doing that,” Dragic said with a smile while using his hand to mimic the pointing motion Wade gave him on the play. “I was more thinking 'OK, this is probably going to be a turnover or something. But in the end –my God.”
Wade not only “soared high enough to get his head next to the rim,” according to rookie Justise Winslow, but the 13-year-veteran caught the ball and dunked it in one smooth motion with his left hand. And that was only the first of several amazing things the soon-to-be 34-year-old did Monday night.
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In another turn-back-the-clock effort, Wade hit a layup with under a second to play to force overtime, hit the winning basket in the extra period and finished with 27 points to lead the Heat to a thrilling 103-100 come-from-behind victory over the Pacers.
“He’s our Benjamin Button,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Wade.
Wade wasn’t the only hero.
Chris Bosh poured in a season-high 31 points – including 13 in the fourth quarter – to go with 11 rebounds as Miami (21-13) overcame an 18-point third quarter deficit to beat the Pacers (19-15) without center Hassan Whiteside.
The NBA’s leading shot blocker missed his first game of the season with a sore right knee, and for most of the game the Heat sorely missed his presence in the paint to score, clean up on the boards and provide some easy offense with put backs and dunks.
Miami shot a season-worst 37.8 percent, but behind Wade and Bosh found a way to beat the Pacers for the first time this season in three tries. Indiana shot 39.4 percent and got 32 points from Paul George and 17 from Monta Ellis. George, who had classic playoff battles with the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals in years past, missed a corner three-pointer with Winslow guarding him on the game’s final shot in overtime to clinch the victory for Miami.
“It felt like the playoffs out there,” Bosh said. “I was joking with PG just telling him how it was like old times. We kind of had this on circled from the jump, especially after they beat us those first two times on their floor. We wanted to come out with a solid game tonight. It wasn’t perfect. We don’t want to be down 18 points to a good team like that, but it was obviously a position we needed to be in.”
The Pacers took their biggest lead at 70-52 when Ian Mahinmi cut through the lane for a lay-in midway through the third quarter. But the Heat followed that with a 14-4 run behind eight points from Wade to close the quarter and stay within striking distance.
The Heat trailed 79-72 when Bosh checked in with 8:02 left in the fourth quarter and he went to work. After Wade tied the score at 87 with a pair of free throws with 3:23 left, Bosh gave the Heat its first lead of the game 12 seconds later when he hit a technical free throw with 3:11 left.
But Miami fell behind again and needed Wade to provide his late game magic. With 2.7 seconds left in regulation, he took the inbounds pass, dribbled left and weaved his way to the basket, hitting a layup as the shot clock expired to tie the score at 95 and force overtime.
But in the end, everybody wanted to talk about that dunk.
“I have had a lot like that,” Wade said. “I have had a left-handed lob catch and I have dunked with the left – just not at the tender age of 33.”
Barring some drastic improvement in his right knee in the next 48 hours, Monday’s game probably won't be the only game Whiteside sits out.
The Heat's 7-foot center, who can't remember exactly it was when he banged his right knee in Sunday's blowout win at Washington, said he felt pain on the plane ride home and by the time he woke up Monday morning and tried to walk to his bathroom "it was really hurting."
And despite being listed as a “game-time decision" by Spoelstra, Whiteside said he really wasn't close at all to playing against the Pacers.
"It's just a lot of soreness right now," Whiteside said. "I really feel like I can't really do anything as far as running or jumping or anything."
Although Whiteside said he doesn't think it's going to be a long-term issue, he also said he's not really sure what the extent of the injury is or if he'll need an MRI.
"I'm kind of figuring that out," he responded when asked if it might be a bone bruise. "It's under the knee cap, around the patella tendon."
As a rookie in 2011, Whiteside partially tore a tendon in his left knee and ended up missing the season. This, however, is his right knee.
▪ The start of the game was delayed 37 minutes when the lights in the arena would not come back on after player introductions. Once the lights came on, so did the Pacers. Indiana started the game on a 9-0 run and lead 15-3 before Spoelstra called time out with 9:07 in the opening quarter to stop the bleeding.
▪ Winslow and Tyler Johnson provided huge lifts off the bench even though they didn’t shoot exceptionally well. Each played nearly nearly 36 minutes each. Johnson finished plus-23 for the game and had eight points and eight rebounds, including a game-tying jump shot in overtime.
Winslow had seven points and six rebounds, including a clutch rebound of a Wade miss at the free-throw line with 5.8 seconds left in overtime.
▪ Chris “Birdman” Andersen made his first start of the season in place of Whiteside, and the 37-year-old veteran center was on the bench with three fouls after only four minutes and 40 seconds. Andersen finished with two points and two rebounds in 10 minutes.