OAKLAND, Calif. — With the game clock ticking down, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra thought about calling a 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 points, 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 on the clock and the three-pointer gave the Heat a 111-110 victory against Golden State at always-ear-popping Oracle Arena.
“I made a tough shot,” James said.
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That’s one way to put it.
Heat forward Shane Battier, who majored in theology at Duke University, 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.”
The dramatic victory came with Dwyane Wade out of action for the second straight evening. After missing Tuesday’s game with a migraine headache, Wade was a late scratch on 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 the All-Star weekend and attempt to play in Sunday’s game. Wade has several charity events also schedule for this weekend.
With Wade out, James carried the load offensively for the second straight night and finished with 36 points. He was 14 of 26 from the field, 4 of 8 from three-point range and 4 of 7 from the free-throw line. 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 hand of guards Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes.
An impressive dunk through Heat defenders by Iguodala put the crowd on its feet and a three-pointer by Barnes capped the Warriors’ run at 23-4. Ray Allen answered with a three-pointer, but the Heat couldn’t cool 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 up his three-pointer with a driving layup. To that point, the Warrior had outscored the Heat 41-27 in the second half.
Led by James and Bosh, the Heat countered with an 11-0 run midway through the fourth quarter. Bosh finished with 19 points. Mario Chalmers had 12 points and seven assists. David Lee had 21 points for the Warriors and Thompson had 17 points.
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.