MIAMI – Erik Spoelstra warned his team before the game that matchups between Indiana and Miami tend to get decided by a loose ball somewhere.
Sure enough, he was right.
Goran Dragic scored in the lane with 6.8 seconds remaining to cap a wild finish, and the Heat improved the NBA’s best home record to 14-1 by defeating the Indiana Pacers 113-112 on Friday night.
Dragic’s shot was the third by Miami on the go-ahead possession, after Jimmy Butler and Kendrick Nunn both missed but the Heat were able to grab offensive rebounds to keep hope alive. Those were Miami’s final two boards on a night where the Heat outrebounded the Pacers 56-34.
“Those last two rebounds, those plays speak for themselves,” Dragic said. “We’re never going to give up.”
Aaron Holiday had a chance to win it for Indiana, but his 3-meter jumper — well defended by Derrick Jones Jr. — with about a second left bounced away. The lead changed hands five times in the final 2:21.
Butler scored 20 points for Miami. Bam Adebayo had 18 points and 15 rebounds, including the offensive board that set up Dragic’s shot. Nunn scored 17, Dragic had 14 and Tyler Herro scored 10.
“We knew it would be a grind,” Spoelstra said.
Duncan Robinson had 18 points, all on six 3-pointers to reach 101 for the season. He reached the century mark in 31 games, four games faster than anyone else in Heat history. Damon Jones needed 35 games in 2004-05.
Aaron Holiday scored 17 for Indiana, which got 16 from TJ Warren and Jeremy Lamb, 14 from Doug McDermott, 13 from Myles Turner and 11 apiece from Justin Holiday and Edmund Sumner.
“It comes down to two plays we have to execute and we didn’t,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “That defensive possession where if we get a stop and we get the rebound and possibly win the game. I think they got three offensive rebounds on that possession and then we have the last possession of the game and we don’t score. You have to make those plays and we didn’t do that.”
The Heat stretched their lead to nine points on two occasions early in the fourth quarter — first on a 3-pointer by Dragic, the second on a 3 by Herro. And both times, Indiana answered with 3s of its own to avoid letting Miami pull away; Sumner hit the first, McDermott hit the second and then connected again with 8:44 left to trim Miami’s lead to 96-93.
That set up the down-to-the-wire finish, and the Pacers couldn’t get the bounce.
“We’ll take that shot any day,” McDermott said. “Aaron, we have a lot of faith in him, he’s a great scorer, and that’s why we want the ball in his hands.”
Bucks 112, Hawks 86
In Atlanta, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez combined for 42 points and Milwaukee pounded the hosts, handing them their ninth straight loss.
The Bucks did not miss league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who did not play because of back soreness. Veteran Ersan Ilyasova got the start in his place and equaled his season high with 18 points and grabbed a season-best 17 rebounds.
Middleton scored 23 and Lopez matched his season high with 19 points. The Hawks’ Allen Crabbe came off the bench to make four 3-pointers and score a season-high 20 points.
Atlanta lost leading scorer Trae Young with a sprained right ankle late in the first half. He had 12 points when he got injured after stepping on another player’s foot, and he was immediately helped to the locker room.
Thunder 104, Hornets 102 (OT)
In Charlotte, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 27 points and Dennis Schroder added 24 as Oklahoma City prevailed in overtime, aided by the Hornets’ missed free throws. Charlotte had a chance to tie the game with 1.9 seconds to play in the extra session, but rookie forward P.J. Washington missed on a pair of foul shots.
Chris Paul, who made a couple of key baskets down the stretch of regulation while playing in his home state, finished with 16 points, while Steven Adams had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Thunder.
Terry Rozier’s 26 points paced the Hornets, while Graham ended up with 15 points and 13 assists and Washington had 14 points.
In Other Games
Warriors 105, Suns 96
Magic 98, 76ers 97
Celtics 129, Cavaliers 117