The Miami Heat in the big three era have shown that big deficits late in the game don’t mean much to them, as LeBron James carried the team on his back, without Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, to force overtime and eventually win 121-119 against the Atlanta Hawks, on the way destroying Paul Millsap with another dunk that’s going to be remembered for quite a while.
The Heat were down by seven points with 1:31 left in the fourth quarter. LeBron James decided he’s taking over, hitting two 3-pointers and adding another bone crushing dunk that sent Paul Millsap to the floor. Maybe it was a statement, maybe it was revenge for Millsap scoring on Bosh and injuring him earlier, or maybe it was just what happens to players who get in the way of James when he’s going for an electrifying dunk.
Ray Allen didn’t make a corner three to tie the game (111-108 at that point to the Hawks), but he was fouled, and hit all three FT shows, sending the game to overtime. In overtime, there wasn’t just one hero. Michael Beasley hit the game winning free throw shots, Chris Andersen scored three big points and so did LeBron James, but as always with James, it was a lot more about what he did to bring his team to that point and not just his performance in the final minutes.
Dwyane Wade didn’t play as the Heat continue to rest him at the faintest sign of him picking up a slight injury, and Bosh himself was out for the final minutes after getting elbowed in the face by Millsap on the aforementioned play. So Ray Allen stepped up with 19 points, but not for the first time in recent weeks, it was mostly the LeBron James show.
Maybe it’s all the talk about Paul George and Kevin Durant being the leaders in the race for the MVP gave him a spark he needed. James finished with 38 points (16-of-28 from the field), adding 8 rebounds and 6 assists. It wasn’t a perfect game for him, especially not from a defensive standpoint, but the Heat aren’t going to win everything easily, even at home and against the Eastern conference, especially when Dwyane Wade is out of the picture.
The Hawks? They can get praise for a good game, nothing more. They ran a nice final play for Kyle Korver, lobbing the ball to him instead of freeing him up for a 3-pointer like everyone expected. It almost worked, but Mario Chalmers was breathing down his neck, denying Korver the chance of a comfortable alley oop. Korver did have another impressive shooting performance, scoring 15 points, all of them on 3-pointers.
The Miami Heat still haven’t hit that stride when they seem to be invincible like they had last season, and close wins over the Pacers and the Hawks aren’t going to change that. However, the true test will begin when there’s a long Western conference streak of games. The way the Heat come out of that one will be a much more telling sign of just how close they are to being prepared for a three-peat.
Obviously, after going through what we experienced last year in The Finals, it’s never over. So we just keep fighting until the end, and we were able to force overtime.