We have seen this horror show before: the Heat frittering away a big second-half lead, its offense going cold late.
It happened again Friday night, Miami squandering all but one point of a 20-point, third-quarter cushion against Indiana. Ultimately, it took two Luol Deng three-pointers in the fourth, a circus shot by Mario Chalmers in the final minute and C.J. Watson’s missed open jumper in the final second for the Heat to escape with an 89-87 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“We got a bounce to go our way, finally,” Dwyane Wade said. “The way this season has gone, I don’t care if we win by 20 or half a point.”
Miami, which entered with the league’s worst second-half point differential and lowest second-half scoring average, was outscored 50-35 after intermission, shooting only 42.9 percent in the third and 31.3 in the fourth.
But the Heat somehow survived a game in which it allowed runs of 17-2 and 11-2 in the game’s final 14 minutes.
Indiana closed to within 86-85 before Chalmers’ wild driving layup pushed the lead to three with 52 seconds left. After George Hill missed a three, the Heat squandered its next possession, with Deng knocking a ball off Chris Bosh’s knee. Hill drove for a layup to cut Miami’s lead to one with seven seconds left.
Fouled on the inbounds pass, Wade missed the first free throw and made the second, leaving Indiana down two with 6.9 seconds left. Hill then shook free on Indiana’s last possession, dishing to Watson, who missed a 20-footer jumper just before the buzzer.
With Deng scoring 23 points and Chris Andersen corralling 13 rebounds, the Heat (19-24) stayed in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference and avoided falling seven games below .500 for the first time this season.
“I’m glad we won,” Bosh said. “Beggars can’t be choosers right now.”
Deng was at his best, cutting to the basket with precision and defending with verve. He shot 9 for 13 despite dealing with a sore throat, headache and chills.
The Heat improved to 7-0 when Deng scores at least 20 points. His threes with 6:01 and 5:13 left in the fourth kept Miami afloat.
“Those were big, and his energy in the first half was amazing,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He was all over the place on both ends.”
Deng’s good work was needed because Wade, who missed the shootaround with a headache, continued to struggle with his shot.
Wade missed his last seven shots and finished 5 for 16, and he has now shot below 50 percent in nine consecutive games. Wade, who had 13 points and six turnovers, has shot less than 41 percent during that stretch.
After faltering badly defensively early in the season, the Heat has now held opponents below 50 percent shooting for 11 consecutive games. Indiana shot 41 percent, and Heat opponents are now shooting 42 percent over that 11-game stretch.
The Heat moved the ball crisply and decisively through 21/2 quarters before unraveling for much of the final 15 minutes.
Spoelstra said “we got to our go-to sets” in the offense for much of the final 15 minutes. “You put the ball in Dwyane’s hands with a two-man action with him and [Bosh], and more often than not you’re going to get something good,” Spoelstra said.
But Bosh (19 points) and Wade combined for only 10 points in the second half on 4-for-15 shooting.