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James' last-second 3 propels Heat past Warriors

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Feb 13 2014 01:34:00 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 13 2014 01:44:28 AM CST
closeup of basketball seams, ball

Jason Antony/SXC

OAKLAND, Calif. -

One day after insisting he eventually will belong on the Mt. Rushmore of NBA superstars, LeBron James grabbed a chisel and started carving.

The Miami forward capped a 36-point performance with what he labeled one of his most dramatic shots ever, a 3-pointer over the outstretched arms of Andre Iguodala with one-tenth of a second remaining that lifted the Heat to a 111-110 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night.

In both teams' final game before the All-Star break, the Heat was 14.6 seconds from defeat after a three-point play by Golden State point guard Stephen Curry. Then James took charge.

Surprised not to see a double-team as he advanced the ball calmly down the left side of the floor, James knew exactly what he needed to do before rising over the tight defense of Warriors swingman Iguodala just outside the 3-point arc for the game-winner.

"I was going for the win the whole time," James said of his first lead-producing shot in the final 10 seconds of a game this season. "Either I made it with no time left or I missed it with no time left."

The hoop shocked the Warriors and their sellout crowd, but not James.

"I watched the flight of the ball," he said. "It looked good the whole time."

While Heat coach Erik Spoelstra opted not to use his final timeout after Curry's free throw -- "At that point, I just let him go," he said -- Warriors coach Mark Jackson chose not to send a second defender at the Miami star.

"What you don't want to do in that situation is have a great passer hit one of the shooters in a rhythm for a 3-pointer," Jackson said. "It was pick your poison. We were willing to live with defense one-on-one once he caught it.

"It was great defense with a great contest. At the end of the day, we witnessed greatness. A special player and an all-time great who made a big-time shot."

The thrilling finish capped a sequence in which the teams traded leads four times in the final 1:22 after Golden State rallied from a 21-point, third-quarter deficit.

A missed free throw by James with 25.3 seconds left seemed to leave the door open for the Warriors, who were seeking their third consecutive home win. James made the first foul shot, breaking a 107-all tie, but misfired on the second.

Curry countered by driving to the Miami hoop and drawing a foul on counterpart point guard Mario Chalmers on a 10-banker with 14.6 seconds left. He finished the three-point play with his ninth consecutive free throw, putting Golden State up 110-108 and setting the stage for James' heroics.

"We know we played well. We just got beat by a great shot," Curry said. "We've got to be happy about the way we played."

Coming off a 37-point, nine-rebound, three-assist game in Phoenix in which he led the Heat in all three categories for 128th time in his career, James did it again Wednesday with 13 rebounds and nine assists to complement his 36 points. He made four of eight 3-point attempts on a night when Miami shot 53.8 percent overall.

"He was exhausted," Spoelstra said of James, who played the entire fourth quarter and 42 minutes in all on the second night of a back-to-back. "I decided I better not break his rhythm (with a timeout on the last play) and let a great player make a great play, make or miss, and that's what he did."

Center Chris Bosh supported James with 19 points, and forward Michael Beasley came off the bench to add 16 for the Heat, which finished an eight-day, four-game Western swing with three wins.

Miami (37-14) was playing for the second consecutive night without star shooting guard Dwyane Wade, who was bothered by headaches Tuesday in Phoenix and a sore foot Wednesday in Oakland.

Curry finished with 29 points for the Warriors, who were looking for a season-series sweep of the Heat. He connected on all four of his 3-point attempts and eight of 14 shots overall.

Power forward David Lee had a 21-point, 11-rebound double-double for Golden State, which made nine of its 16 3-point shots. Shooting guard Klay Thompson added 17 points, and backup forward Harrison Barnes scored 14 for the Warriors (31-22).

"It was a furious ending, both teams making big plays," Spoelstra said. "It's competition at its best, at its finest, and that's what competitors want in a game like this."

Down 75-54 at the 7:52 mark of the third quarter, the Warriors used a 28-9 explosion to get within two by period's end. Golden State had 11-0 and 9-0 flurries in the comeback.

NOTES: The Heat is now 8-2 on the second night of back-to-backs this season. ... Miami played the final 17 minutes of the first half without starting F Shane Battier, who took five stitches above his left eye after getting inadvertently hit by Warriors F David Lee under the Golden State basket. Battier returned to start the second half and finished with two points in 17 minutes. ... Heat PG Toney Douglas made his second consecutive start in place of the injured SG Dwyane Wade. Douglas has made two starts in five games for the Heat after earlier this season playing 24 games for the Warriors without making a start. ... The Warriors' 31 wins at the All-Star break are their highest total since 2008. ... The Warriors expect C Andrew Bogut (left shoulder inflammation) and backup C Jermaine O'Neal (sore right wrist) back for their first game after the All-Star break -- next Wednesday at Sacramento. ... Miami's next game is Tuesday in Dallas against the Mavericks.

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