x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Even at worst, LeBron James and Miami Heat able to overcome the best

Miami overcame early poor form and used a second-half rally to springboard past the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers 97-94 on Wednesday night with Dwyane Wade leading the way with 32 points.

LeBron James had 24 points for Miami on Wednesday night. Chris Trotman / Getty Images / AFP
LeBron James had 24 points for Miami on Wednesday night. Chris Trotman / Getty Images / AFP

MIAMI, United States // For so much of the night, just about everything was going wrong for the Miami Heat. They were missing every 3-pointer, arguing plenty of calls, even screaming at one another.

Then one quick burst changed everything.

Dwyane Wade scored 32 points, LeBron James added 24 on a sore left ankle, and Chris Bosh and Ray Allen connected on huge 3-pointers within a 31-second span down the stretch. It all added up to the Heat erasing a 15-point deficit in the final 18 minutes to beat the rival Indiana Pacers 97-94 on Wednesday.

“It shows we’re a team that’s been there before,” Wade said. “No matter what the score is we always feel we have an opportunity to win the game.”

So even when Indiana led 68-53 midway through third quarter, hope remained.

And even when James and Mario Chalmers were getting in a heated exchange during one particularly bleak stretch – James said afterward that he was wrong, and Chalmers said the matter was forgotten – the Heat didn’t fall apart.

“It was a good win,” James said. “Good, good, quality win against a very good team on our home floor. We had to overcome a lot.”

Paul George scored 25 points for Indiana but missed a 3-pointer that would have tied it with 4 seconds left, and insisted afterward that he was fouled by James on the play.

“I went into my shot, got pushed in the back, I thought it was a foul, nothing was called, and we lost the game,” George said. “Aside of that we still should have taken care of business.”

David West had 23 points and Lance Stephenson added 13 for the Pacers, who have dropped two straight and saw their lead over Miami in the Eastern Conference trimmed to one game. Both teams have won against the other on their home floor this season, and Miami topped Indiana at home in Game 7 of the East finals a year ago.

“It’s December,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “I think you have two great teams going at it. It’s going to be a fun series all season, the regular-season matchups, and hopefully we will both be able to reach a point in the play-offs where we can meet again.”

Miami got the 15-point deficit down to five by the end of the third quarter, and were still down 92-85 when West scored with 3:21 remaining.

Then, for the first time all night, the Heat put together a real run.

The Heat scored the next 10 points – Bosh’s 3-pointer, his first in 15 attempts, tied it at 92. And after George missed in the lane at the other end, James brought the ball the other way and found Allen for a 3-pointer that put the Heat ahead for the first time since the score was 14-13.

They didn’t trail again.

“I was encouraged by our ability to stay focused and show some resolve in the second half,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but you have to make enough plays ... and a lot of times against this opponent it has to be like that, where it’s not smooth and you have to make enough plays to just give yourself a chance in the end.”

The Pacers had a chance at the lead late, but it went awry when George Hill turned the ball over on a pass with 14 seconds left. Allen made two free throws with 10.3 seconds remaining to put Miami up by three, and that capped the scoring.

Pacers center Roy Hibbert got his fourth foul early in the third, and Vogel opted to leave him in the game. The gamble appeared to backfire 46 seconds later when Hibbert picked up his fifth with 8:34 remaining in the quarter.

Hibbert went to the bench – but the Pacers didn’t miss a beat.

George made three free throws after getting hit beyond the arc by Chalmers to put Indiana up 66-51 midway through the third, and the Pacers’ lead was still 14 with 4:17 left in the period.

“They stole the game from us,” West said.

Even though the teams won’t see each other again until March, and with the play-offs still 50-something games away, there was clearly a little more meaning to this one.

James was questionable because of a bad ankle, the one he twisted in Monday’s win over Utah. Vogel was questionable because of bad spaghetti – at least, he thinks that’s what caused a quick bout with illness that set in after he dined Tuesday night.

By game time, both pronounced themselves ready.

OTHER WEDNESDAY RESULTS

Timberwolves 120, Trail Blazers 109

Kevin Love came one assist short of his first career triple-double and center Nikola Pekovic scored a season-high 30 points as the Timberwolves downed visiting Portland.

Love had 29 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists for the Wolves (13-13), who ended the Trail Blazers’ five-game winning streak.

Damian Lillard scored a game-high 36 points for the Blazers (22-5).

Clippers 108, Pelicans 95

Blake Griffin scored 21 points and added 10 rebounds as the Los Angeles Clippers coasted to a victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Clippers (18-9) had seven players score in double figures for their third win in a row.

The Pelicans (11-13) got a boost from forward Anthony Davis, who returned after missing seven games with a fractured left hand, but it wasn’t enough. Davis scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Knicks 107, Bucks 101 (2 Overtimes)

Carmelo Anthony scored 29 points as the Knicks held off the Bucks in the second overtime.

Anthony finished with four 3-pointers, one of which gave New York a 104-98 lead with 50 seconds remaining in the final overtime.

Spurs 108, Suns 101

Manu Ginobili scored 13 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter and 11 in the final four minutes as the San Antonio Spurs snapped the Phoenix Suns’ five-game winning streak.

Playing without point guard Tony Parker, sidelined due to a shin contusion, the Spurs committed 18 turnovers but got 58 points from their bench and closed out the game with a 15-6 run.

Rockets 109, Bulls 94

Dwight Howard narrowly missed posting his seventh consecutive double-double, but finished with 23 points and nine rebounds.

Bulls guard Jimmy Butler paced Chicago with 20 points and Chicago (9-15) fell to 1-6 against Western Conference teams.

Mavericks 105, Grizzlies 91

Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points in only 27 minutes, as coach Rick Carlisle had the luxury of going deep into his bench in the Mavericks’ victory.

Memphis (10-15), without three starters and playing on the second night of a back-to-back, struggled to find much offensive rhythm in losing their fifth straight.

Bobcats 104, Raptors 102 (Overtime)

Kemba Walker scored 29 points, including the winning shot at the buzzer in overtime, and the Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Toronto Raptors.

Walker took a pass from Josh McRoberts and hit an 18-foot jumper to win it at the buzzer for the Bobcats (12-14) who have won two straight.

Guard DeMar DeRozan led Toronto (9-14) with 30 points.

Pistons 107, Celtics 106

The Detroit Pistons wiped out a 21-point, first-half deficit and pulled out a wild victory over the Boston Celtics.

Brandon Jennings hit a contested 3-pointer with 46.7 seconds left to put Detroit ahead to stay.

Jennings led all scorers with 28 points and added 14 assists for the Pistons (13-14) while Jared Sullinger led the Celtics (12-15) with 19 points and eight rebounds.

Wizards 113, Nets 107

John Wall had 21 points and six assists, leading the Washington Wizards to a win over the Brooklyn Nets.

The Wizards (11-13) won their second straight despite Nets forward Paul Pierce showing glimpses of his former self, scoring a season-high 27 points off the bench for Brooklyn (9-16).

Hawks 124, Kings 107

Kyle Korver scored a season-high 28 points, including eight 3-pointers, and sparked a fourth-quarter rally that enabled the Atlanta Hawks to beat the Sacramento Kings.

Korver stirred a 15-6 run to start the final quarter as the Hawks (14-12) won their second straight game.

Jazz 86, Magic 82

Rookie Trey Burke scored a career-high 30 points to lead his Utah Jazz to victory over the Orlando Magic.

Burke, the No 9 pick of the draft, hit 12 of 20 shots to guide the Jazz (7-21) over the Magic (8-18) who struggled without leading scorer Arron Afflalo (illness).