OAKLAND, United States // With one eye on the defence and the other on the clock, LeBron James let the time tick down before carrying the Miami Heat into the All-Star break in a way only he could.
James capped one of his best games of the season in dramatic fashion, making a step-back three-pointer with less than a second remaining to propel the Heat past the Golden State Warriors 111-110 Wednesday night and into the break on a high note.
“I was going for the win the whole time,” James said.
With teammate Dwyane Wade scratched from the line-up with a nerve irritation in his left foot, James shouldered the load for the two-time defending NBA champions. He finished with 36 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, saving his best moment for last.
After James’ fellow All-Star Stephen Curry hit a bank shot to start a three-point play that put the Warriors ahead by two, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra chose not to call timeout.
Instead, James got the ball in the half court and swished a 27-footer over Andre Iguodala with two-tenths of a second left. James stared into the stands, then patted his chest and high-stepped on the sideline, leaving the announced sellout crowd of 19,596 stunned and silent.
“Better offence,” James said, “beats better defence every time.”
James shot 14-of-26 from the floor, including several dazzling dunks, to help the Heat go ahead by 21 points in the third quarter. Chris Bosh added 19 points and five rebounds, and reserve Michael Beasley scored 16 points in a thrilling victory for Miami, who won without Wade for the second straight night.
The Heat (37-14) head into the break 2 1/2 games behind Indiana (40-12) in the Eastern Conference.
“I just told them in the locker room that if I had realised he was going to work that thing all the way down to the end of the clock, I would have ran out there and screamed timeout,” Spoelstra said. “I tried to design something but once he started to wind it up I decided I better not break his rhythm and let a great player make a great play, make or miss, and that’s what he did.”
Curry finished with 29 points and seven assists, and David Lee had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Warriors (31-22), who rallied to take an 87-84 lead early in the fourth quarter before the teams traded baskets late.
Golden State, who beat the Heat in Miami earlier this season, had no answer for the four-time NBA MVP this time.
“That was like the ultimate buzz kill,” Curry told teammates in the Warriors’ locker room. He could later be heard shouting “Wow!” from the showers.
The biggest stars for both teams providing a fantastic finish.
Iguodala lost the ball before gathering himself for a desperation, 18-foot fadeway with the shot clock about to expire, giving the Warriors a 105-104 lead. James answered with a three-pointer over Klay Thompson, then Curry came back with a short jumper to tie the score again, and James followed by splitting a pair of free throws.
As Lee came over to set a screen to his left, Curry drove to his right and banked a short jumper off the glass while getting fouled by Mario Chalmers to start a three-point play with 14.6 seconds to play, lifting the Warriors ahead 110-108 – and seemingly for good.
James quickly changed that. He dribbled just in front of Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob sitting courtside and hit the contested three-pointer over Iguodala, breaking into celebration to put the exclamation point on Miami’s win. The Warriors didn’t have enough time to get a shot off on the final possession.
The shot capped a breathtaking performance by James when the Heat needed it most.
Wade also sat out Miami’s win Tuesday night at Phoenix with a migraine headache. He was listed at his usual shooting guard spot and announced during pregame introductions, but seconds before tipoff the Heat said he would not play.
Wade said he’s not sure if he’ll be able to play in Sunday’s All-Star game in New Orleans.
The Warriors, who were coming off a 123-80 rout of Philadelphia on Monday, were without centres Andrew Bogut (bruised left shoulder) and Jermaine O’Neal (sore right wrist).
Any time Golden State started to take control, though, there was no line-up that could stop James.
“We witnessed greatness,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “A special player, an all-time great, made a big-time shot.”
OTHER WEDNESDAY RESULTS
Rockets 113, Wizards 112
James Harden scored on a driving layup with 0.7 seconds left to lift the Houston Rockets to a 113-112 win over the Washington Wizards.
Houston (36-17) head into the All-Star Game break riding a seven-game winning streak thanks largely to Harden, who scored 35 points and added six rebounds and six assists. Houston centre Dwight Howard added 24 points and 16 rebounds with three blocked shots.
The Wizards (25-27) erased a 19-point second-half deficit and led 112-110 when guard John Wall (19 points, 14 assists) hit two free throws with four seconds left. But Wizards forward Trevor Ariza (32 points, 11 rebounds) fouled Harden before the ball was in play on the ensuing inbounds pass. Harden hit a free throw and Houston retained possession, leading to the winning score.
Mavericks 81, Pacers 73
Guard Monta Ellis led the Mavericks with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists, and visiting Dallas posted a win over the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers (40-12) suffered a rare home defeat, falling to 25-3 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Mavericks (32-22) levelled their road record at 14-14, bouncing back from a blowout loss to the Bobcats on Tuesday in Charlotte.
Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki finished with 18 points and six rebounds, while four Pacers scored in double figures, led by guard George Hill’s 14 points.
Spurs 104, Celtics 92
Tim Duncan scored 23 of his 25 points in the second half, including eight straight for his team at one point in the fourth quarter, leading the Spurs to a victory over the Boston Celtics in the final game for each team before the All-Star break.
The seemingly ageless big man, who will be 38 in April, led the Spurs in the absence of point guard Tony Parker (rested), injured guard Manu Ginobili and forward Tiago Splitter.
The Celtics, who had won four of their last five coming in, got 16 points from point guard Rajon Rondo, while forward Kris Humphries came off the bench with 15 points and six rebounds.
Kings 106, Knicks 101 (Overtime)
The Sacramento Kings stopped a seven-game road losing streak, turning back the New York Knicks in overtime.
Sacramento (18-35) guard Jimmer Fredette scored a career-high 24 points, hitting six of eight 3-pointers. Forward Rudy Gay added 20 points for the Kings.
Carmelo Anthony topped New York (20-32) with 36 points but the Knicks lost for the fifth time in their last six games. They finish the first half of the season in third place in the Atlantic Division.
Timberwolves 117, Nuggets 90
Kevin Love delivered a 32-point, 11-rebound, eight-assist game as the Minnesota Timberwolves ended a four-game losing streak and headed into the All Star break on a positive note.
Minnesota (25-28) built a 34-point lead and thumped a Nuggets (24-27) team that lost four consecutive and six of their last eight games.
Wolves forward Corey Brewer added 22 points while reserve forward Jordan Hamilton led the hurting Nuggets with 16 off the bench.
Nets 105, Bobcats 89
Paul Pierce scored 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting as the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Charlotte Bobcats. The Nets (24-26) used a 10-0 run to open the second half on their way to a 35-19 margin to pull away from a pesky Bobcats (23-30) team comfortably.
Coming into Wednesday night, Bobcats centre Al Jefferson had averaged 29 points per game and recorded 30 points in five of his last seven outings. He was held to just 12 in Brooklyn.
Grizzlies 86, Magic 81
Veteran forward Zack Randolph scored 20 points and grabbed five rebounds, leading the Memphis Grizzlies to a victory over the Orlando Magic.
Rookie point guard Nick Calathes, who has replaced injured Mike Conley in the starting lineup, had 12 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals for the Grizzlies (29-23).
The Magic (16-38) were led by center Nikola Vucevic, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Pelicans 102, Bucks 98
Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca set a season high with 16 points, and New Orleans beat the Milwaukee Bucks.
Ajinca stepped up big in the third after forward Anthony Davis picked up his fourth foul early in the quarter and headed to the bench.
The Bucks got within a point at the two-minute mark on a Nate Wolters three-pointer but could get no closer, losing for the fourth straight game despite a game-high 22 points and nine assists from Brandon Knight and 14 points and seven assists from Wolters.
Raptors 104, Hawks 83
Guard DeMar DeRozan scored 14 of his 31 points in the third quarter as the Toronto Raptors defeated the Atlanta Hawks for their second consecutive win.
The Raptors (28-24) improved to 9-2 at home since January 1 while handing the Hawks (25-26) their fifth consecutive loss.
Guard Kyle Lowry added 16 points, 13 assists and six rebounds for the Raptors.
Cavaliers 93, Pistons 89
Power forward Tristan Thompson scored a season-high 25 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers extended their winning streak to a season-best four games with a triumph over the Detroit Pistons.
Point guard Kyrie Irving had 23 points for the Cavaliers (20-33), who snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Pistons despite trailing most of the way.
With the Pistons (22-30) within one point in the closing minute, Irving drained a three-pointer with 27.2 seconds left to help seal it.
Jazz 105, 76ers 100
Alec Burks scored 26 points and added three steals while Gordon Hayward scored 17 on the strength of 11-of-12 free-throw shooting (despite going 3-of-17 from the field) to push Utah (19-33) over Philadelphia (15-39).
Marvin Williams pitched in 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Jazz, while Evan Turner led the 76ers with 21 points.
Clippers 122, Trail Blazers 117
Blake Griffin registered 3 points and 10 rebounds, Chris Paul had 20 points and 12 assists and Los Angeles (37-18) overcame a three-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter to beat Portland (36-17).
Jamal Crawford added 25 points for the Clippers. LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 and Damian Lillard had 21 in response for the Blazers.