MIAMI (AP)—A joyous Pat Riley walked into the Miami Heat locker room, one of his patented inspirational postgame speeches at the ready.
His team never gave him a chance. And really, nothing needed to be said. The scoreboard told the story.
Dwyane Wade scored 35 points, Mark Blount added 10 of his 19 in the pivotal fourth quarter, and the Heat beat the Indiana Pacers 98-96 on Saturday to snap a 15-game skid—the longest in the NBA this season and the second-longest in franchise history.
“You don’t like to be part of that every day,” Riley said. “So they’re just happy this thing is over with.”
The scene at the final buzzer was championship-caliber.
Indiana’s final play started with 5.8 seconds left, when Wade knocked the inbounds pass into the backcourt. Andre Owens picked up the ball, got just over halfcourt and released a desperation toss that wasn’t close.
And with that, Heat relief.
Dorell Wright threw the ball in the air—just like Wade did from almost the same spot on the court when the Heat won the NBA title in Dallas June 20, 2006.
So what if Miami only improved to 9-33, the worst record in the East?
For the first time since Dec. 22, the Heat could leave a game happy.
“To tell you the truth, it feels like we won a championship,” Wright said. “Been a long time, know what I mean? It’s a good feeling and I’m just happy it’s over.”
Mike Dunleavy scored 25 points for Indiana, which has lost 13 of its last 17 games. Andre Owens and Danny Granger each scored 13 and Kareem Rush scored 12 for the Pacers, who led by nine with 4:05 left in the third but couldn’t finish Miami off.
“It just seems like we really shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes,” Dunleavy said.
This might count as one of those times.
Oh, but the Pacers made it more than interesting down the stretch.
Miami was up 94-85 on Wade’s 3-pointer with 4:36 left, before Indiana went on a 9-2 run over the next 3 1/2 minutes, a burst capped by Rush’s 3-pointer with 1:07 remaining that drew the Pacers within 96-94.
They got no closer.
Rush missed an open 3 from the top of the key, but Indiana retained possession when Troy Murphy threw the ball off Haslem on the way out of bounds. Wade, though, tapped the inbounds pass away to start the clock, and with that, the streak ended.
“This had to be the game,” Wade said.
It didn’t like it would be in the early going.
The Pacers were woeful from the floor in the opening minutes—missing 14 of their first 18 shots—but Dunleavy did plenty to make sure Miami didn’t open an early lead. He scored 16 of Indiana’s first 19 points, including 14 straight over a 5 1/2 -minute stretch, and the Pacers had a three-point edge early.
Miami trailed by as many as 11 in the second quarter after Shawne Williams’ 3-pointer with 9:16 left, and trailed 57-48 at intermission.
A bad omen, for certain: Miami entered 2-19 when trailing at halftime, with the biggest deficit successfully overcome by the Heat at a game’s midpoint this year being a six-point hole against lowly Minnesota on Dec. 17.
Wade scored the final nine points in an 11-0 Miami run that put the Heat up 73-71 later in the third, and the teams entered the fourth knotted at 77.
“The difference was the third quarter,” Indiana coach Jim O’Brien said. “We played very poor defense.”
Blount scored the first two baskets of the final quarter, Wright added a jumper with 9:53 left to put Miami up by six, and the Heat kept the lead the rest of the way.
So the plan that was hatched before the game in a walkthrough practice was put into action. And when Riley entered the locker room, the team leaped from its seats and wrapped arms in a group hug.
“We’d heard all the speeches, so we said bring it in,” Wright said. “He thought that was pretty funny.”
After more than a month of losing, Riley probably needed a good laugh.
The Pacers were again without injured Jermaine O’Neal and Jamaal Tinsley. For Miami, Daequan Cook returned after missing Thursday’s game with tonsillitis. … Wade and Travis Diener, the former Marquette teammates, chatted in front of Miami’s bench at halftime. … Heat guard Chris Quinn—listed at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds—took an offensive foul against Indiana’s 6-foot-11, 250-pound Jeff Foster to stop a 5-on-2 Pacers break in the second quarter. … Oddest moment of the day: To celebrate Heat mascot Burnie’s birthday, other noted South Florida mascots appeared, including “TD” of the Miami Dolphins. He was booed.