There was a moment in the final seconds where LeBron James was waving his arms, motioning for another sellout Miami Heat crowd to quiet down so Dwyane Wade could shoot free throws in peace.
For much of the game, it was the Atlanta Hawks keeping them quiet – until the Heat perked up just in time.
James had 31 points and 11 rebounds, Wade added 18 points and set up Udonis Haslem for an alley-oop dunk with 12 seconds left, and the Heat rallied to beat the Hawks 89-86 on Wednesday night.
”We needed one of these games,” James said. ”It’s about time we had one of these games where we had to fight for every minute, all the way down the stretch. … It was good for us to close this game out.”
Miami won its 11th straight at home and had to come from 10 points down in the third quarter to extend that streak. Another Heat streak ended – it was Miami’s first time since April 6, 2006, without making a 3-pointer, a span that included 455 regular-season games and 60 more in the playoffs.
The Heat were 0 for 10 from beyond the arc.
”Sometimes you have to win them ugly,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”And that was ugly there for a while.”
Josh Smith scored 23 for the Hawks, who were without Joe Johnson and Tracy McGrady, among others. Jannero Pargo had a look at a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it hit the rim and bounced away.
”He had a decent look at it. It just didn’t go down,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. ”We had an opportunity, but we squandered it away.”
Jeff Teague scored 16 and Jerry Stackhouse added 10 for the Hawks. The Heat only had two players in double figures, with Chris Bosh managing only nine points on a 3 for 14 shooting night.
Pargo’s three-point play with 30.5 seconds left got the Hawks within 85-84, but on the next Miami possession, Wade found Haslem at the rim to push the lead back to three. A layup by Vladimir Radmanovic with just under 4 seconds left got Atlanta within one, but Wade – who also had nine rebounds and six assists – made a pair of free throws with 2.7 seconds left, with James asking for quiet.
”We stuck with it until we eventually got the lead,” Wade said. ”And we were able to hold on and get a good win.”
The Hawks twice led by 10 points in the third quarter, the first coming on a 3-pointer by Kirk Hinrich, the other when Smith made a pair of free throws with 4 minutes left to give Atlanta a 65-55 edge.
Then things got heated.
And the Heat needed the boost.
Miami went on top after a 13-0 run, a spurt that really started to roll when Wade stole the ball from Teague, got a pass back from Mario Chalmers and threw down a dunk that went halfway through the net, hit his chest twice as he held on to the goal – then finally fell through the net.
Atlanta turned the ball over four straight times, and not only were the Hawks losing the ball, they were losing their cool. During one scrum, Zaza Pachulia grabbed onto James’ head, earning both a personal foul and a technical foul as players from both sides got testy with one another and even Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton – sitting courtside – feigned wanting to run on the court to join in the fun.
Chalmers and James combined to make two free throws, and the Heat lead was at 68-65.
”I stopped playing football a long time ago,” James said. ”But I still have football traits.”
Wade blocked a 3-point try by Stackhouse with 16 seconds left in the third, Shane Battier swatted away an attempt by Ivan Johnson on the final play of the quarter, and the Hawks scored only six points in a span of 10 minutes, 12 seconds stretching into the fourth quarter.
But when Atlanta snapped out of it, with Teague making two layups in a 21-second span, it was suddenly a game again, with the Heat up only 77-75. Another basket by Teague tied it, and Smith’s 3-pointer with 3:29 left put the Hawks back on top.
”We’re steadily growing each and every day,” Smith said. ”We’re starting to put consistent games together where we’re playing together. We’ve been unselfish. We have to limit our turnovers more, especially down the stretch.”
Miami scored the next six, Haslem’s jumper with just over a minute to go giving the Heat an 83-80 lead.
”They put that team out there as a world-beater,” Stackhouse said. ”We came in here and competing with them just as well as much as anybody else and we felt we should have won the game.”
Notes: James passed Rick Barry for 55th on the NBA’s career scoring list. At his current pace, James would catch No. 50 Isiah Thomas in early April. … Wade, James and Bosh are the first three teammates to all eclipse the 250 field-goal mark this season. … Wade made the 4,000th free throw of his career in the game. … The Hawks led 45-43 at the half, despite Miami being whistled for only two fouls and Atlanta not shooting a single free throw. The Hawks’ first trip to the foul line came with 9:06 left in the third. … Smith tried 12 shots in the first quarter, something only Michael Beasley, Kobe Bryant and DeMarcus Cousins had done this season.