Heat happy to escape with a victory against Pacers
MIAMI, Fla. — After blowing a 20-point lead in the second half to a weak opponent, the Miami Heat found themselves in familiar territory at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
Instead of an easy blowout victory against the Indiana Pacers, they found themselves fighting an opponent flush with renewed confidence while trying not to succumb to the same bad habits that have led to numerous heartbreaking defeats — especially at home.
Both teams had chances to grab the victory in crunch time, with the Heat struggling through yet another dismal second half performance. For them to secure their seventh regular season victory against the Pacers in the last eight home games, they would have to dig deep on defense to outlast them.
And perhaps a little luck to also go their way for once.
With nervous fans looking on — dreading another crushing home loss — Dwyane Wade would miss the first of two free throws with 6.8 seconds remaining before nailing the second attempt.
As Indiana inbounded the ball at mid-court on their next possession, Wade darted out to the top of the key and almost grabbed a steal that would have sealed the victory. Instead, it grazed off his fingertips and went out of bounds.
With Miami still holding on to a two-point lead, it all came down to a C.J. Watson 20-foot jumper from the corner with seconds remaining. For an exhausted Wade who was battling headaches all day that caused him to miss shootaround earlier, all he could think about as the shot floated through the air was avoiding an overtime period.
"I was thinking that I didn’t have the legs for overtime so I don’t know what we are going to do," said Wade afterwards. "(Chalmers) did a great job of running them off the three so we knew that once (Watson) stepped in (to two-point range) we couldn’t lose the ball game then."
Instead, Chalmers did just enough to throw Watson off to make him bypass the 3-point attempt. Though he ended up having an open shot, it rattled off the rim and the narrow 89-87 victory was in hand. Wade — barely able to walk — could only smile in relief as the players gathered at mid-court to congratulate each other.
"Look at it this way, we got a bounce to go our way finally," he said. "Something went our way. We have to look at the positives."
There were positives to be sure, but mainly due to their play in the first half when the ball was being shared freely and shots were falling. To escape with a victory after managing just 14 fourth quarter points may have been lucky, but Chris Bosh didn’t mind after all the misfortune the team has suffered in the first half of the season.
"I’ll take it," Bosh said. "Of course we could do better, giving up a lead like that, especially so late in the third quarter. It was very frustrating, but no matter what you have to stick with it. I’m just glad we won. Beggars can’t be choosers."
A loss would have been as emotionally draining as their unforgettable second half meltdown against the Philadelphia 76ers last month. Their 17-point halftime lead Friday was their largest at home and tied for the most in any game this season.
Though they’ll gladly take the victory, the Heat players know full well that a complete effort will be needed to put away most teams on any given night if they want to keep winning on a more consistent basis.
"We just have to get to playing as close to 48 minutes as possible," said Luol Deng, who led the team with 23 points — including two consecutive 3-pointers in crunch time to help hold off the Pacers. "I thought that we played really great in the first half and they played a lot better in the second half. We came into the game ready to play, we just have to have the same mindset and put teams away."