Despite never holding a lead in this game — and without Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Avery Bradley, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless (who left the game after injuring his thigh in the first half) — the Heat had a golden opportunity to tie the game with seven seconds left after a rare Kyrie Irving missed free throw but no one from the bench apparently signaled for a timeout, or if they did the referee did not see it or acknowledge it. Instead the ball was quickly brought up the court and Bam Adebayo was fouled by James Harden, robbing Miami a chance to attempt a 3-pointer.
It was an incredible feat just to get to the point of having a chance to miraculously tie the game, necessitating a four-point play from Goran Dragic and an awkward-looking 3 from Duncan Robinson (in which Joe Harris appeared to foul him as well but it wasn’t called).
Brooklyn’s Big 3 of Durant (31 points), Harden (12 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds) and Irving (28 points) were too much for the shorthanded Heat to overcome. Durant was solid throughout the night despite battling foul trouble, and Irving almost single-handedly kept Adebayo and the Heat at bay in the final quarter as the road team made one last desperate push to steal the game.
Without Butler or Herro to lean on for offense, Adebayo took it upon himself to lead the way with a career-high 41 points on 14-20 field goal shooting, 12-14 free throws, nine assists and five rebounds in 38 minutes. Five of his points came on buzzer-beaters, the first shot was an exquisite 3-pointer (his first of the season) to end the first half and he finished the third quarter with a much-needed shot from the top of the key which helped spark his team to an early fourth quarter run to get within striking distance.
It was also encouraging to get another strong performance out of Kendrick Nunn off the bench with 18 points on 7-14 shooting and 4-9 from beyond the arc. Robinson also scored 18 and Dragic contributed 19 points and seven assists. Perhaps most of all it was a relief to see the team largely avoid turning the ball over constantly with just eight turnovers while forcing the Nets into 17.
Ultimately it was the Heat’s inability to contain the Nets’ firepower that never allowed them to take the lead tonight. Brooklyn as a team shot 53.7% from the field and 51.4% from deep. Considering Miami in comparison shot just 28.3% from 3-point territory for the night (13-46), it was impressive enough that the team had chances to win it.