Shorthanded, yet spirited, the Miami Heat(32-25) gave it everything they had and more against the historic, league leading Golden State Warriors(51-5) Wednesday night. Despite being down one point with about 40 seconds left to play, Stephen Curry destroyed all optimism in the triple A after a bevy of clutch buckets down the stretch to put the Heat away, 118-112, and continue their campaign to break the Chicago Bulls 72-10 record.
After coming into the game with three straight gritty wins, the Heat wanted to pick up right where they left off. Dwyane Wade, who shot 4-21 Monday night versus the Indiana Pacers, scored 10 of Miami's first 11 points of the game. Midway through the first quarter, Hassan Whiteside subbed in and made his impact felt early.
The 7-footer went on a personal 8-0 run, ignited by scrappy and-1 over Draymond Green who previously taunted the center, on his way to 11 first quarter points to lead the Heat 30-21 after the game's first period. Despite the high energy start, Curry, who had 14, would tease the Heat and close the quarter with a remarkable near half-court heave.
The Warriors would fight back in the second quarter behind the Splash Brothers, Curry and Klay Thompson, but would feel some resistance from an unlikely source. Heat rookie Josh Richardson, who will be far more utilized now with Beno Udrih out for the season, provided another spark off the bench, scoring eight points on a couple of threes, to counter Golden State's efforts.
Wade also put up eight points in the quarter to help the Heat sustain the lead. The two All-Star starters, Wade and Curry, led their teams with 18 a piece at halftime with the Heat leading 55-51.
In the second half, Miami got a good view of the 2016 MVP front-runner. Curry, the reigning 2015 MVP, went for 14 in the third quarter. Wade had eight points, surpassing his average(18.7 points), in the period by reaching 25 points. Josh McRoberts, who's picked up the play in the absence of Chris Bosh, scored the team's last seven points of the quarter and even blocked a Curry layup to keep the Heat in the driver's seat.
Josh McBlock https://t.co/OT3QzbvoeH— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) February 25, 2016
With the Warriors undefeated when entering the fourth quarter, the Heat made sure to hold the lead 83-80 by the end of the third quarter and put themselves in the best possible position to beat the reigning champions.
Desperately holding on to the game, the Heat played some of their most inspired defense of the season in the fourth quarter. The only problem is they were facing one of the most talented offensive teams in league history. The Heat would witness it down the stretch of the game at the hands of the Splash Brothers.
Two-time All-Star Thompson went off in the fourth, scoring 15 straight points on a series of three-pointers, step backs and finger roles. Miami had no answer for the two-guard but stayed in the game due to seven straight free-throws from their own shooting guard.
Wade, who took every possession down to the rim, put the Heat up by one with a couple of free-throws after a Curry three. The Heat led 108-107 with just under a minute to play.
On the ensuing play Green was swatted by Whiteside on a three-point attempt but grabbed the rebound and passed it back to Curry, who quickly hoisted a triple and knocked it down, putting the Warriors up by two and crushing the hearts of Heat fans.
After a Dragic layup and set of free throws from Curry, the Heat responded by turning the ball over and suffering a clear path foul, leading to more Warriors' points. Eventually succumbing to the Warriors' backcourt duo, who scored 27 of the team's final 29 points of the game, the Heat had no shot of coming back, losing 118-112 at home.
Wade had his best game of the season, leading the Heat with 32 points and seven assists. Whiteside contributed 21 points and 13 rebounds off the bench alongside first-year guard Richardson, who scored a career-high 15 points on 3/3 shooting from downtown. Luol Deng had his fourth straight double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds and Dragic, who was averaging 21.6 points, 7.6 assists and 6.6 rebounds over the last three games, finished with just 13 points and seven assists on 5-17 shooting.
For the defending champs, Curry led the way with a game-high 42 points, seven assists and seven rebounds while knocking down six three-pointers. His partner, Thompson, poured in 33 points. The backcourt combined for a staggering 75 points, the most any duo has scored against the Heat this season. The third All-Star on their team, Green, chipped in with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The Heat take on the Boston Celtics on Saturday @ 3:00 P.M.