By Tim Reynolds
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MIAMI _ The last lead change belonged to Dwyane Wade, and with it a win went to the Miami Heat.
Wade scored 28 points, including two free throws with 1.5 seconds left that put Miami ahead to stay and the Heat topped the Oklahoma City Thunder 97-95 on Thursday night in a wild back-and-forth game that featured 38 lead changes and 11 ties.
Chris Bosh scored 16 points and Goran Dragic added 14 for Miami, which survived when Russell Westbrook’s 3-point try from the right wing bounced off the backboard as time expired.
“That felt like the playoffs,” Wade said. “That was our best game of the year. From start to finish we really executed. We took the individual challenge. They’ve got two of the greatest players in our game and they’ve got a good team so this is our best win of the year.”
Westbrook and Kevin Durant each scored 25 for Oklahoma City, which misfired on a pair of 3s in the final 10 seconds. Durant missed a 3-pointer and Bosh grabbed the rebound, calling time with 7.7 seconds remaining.
That set up the possession where Wade drove, drew a foul on Serge Ibaka and put Miami ahead for good. Westbrook then missed the finale, leaving him scoreless in the game’s final 16 minutes.
No other NBA game entering Thursday had more than 25 lead changes this season _ and in Wade’s 13-season career with the Heat, no Miami game ever had more than 31.
It was theatre, all the way to the end.
“My stomach’s in knots,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “These guys love it. They love it. This is what you play for. Thursday night, at home, in Miami. The guys don’t even feel the type of anxiety or pressure that we do. It’s excitement for them.”
Durant’s 3-pointer with 1:32 left was the 37th lead change of the night, and put Oklahoma City up 95-93. Wade tied it on a short jumper about a minute later, the 11th time the sides were knotted on the evening.
Neither team ever led by more than six points, and that was for a combined 35 seconds. Back and forth _ and back and forth, and then more back and forth _ they went all night, with all but seven of the game’s 48 minutes being played while neither team led by more than three points.
Thunder: Oklahoma City had two days off before and after this game, its most relaxed stretch so far this season. … Thunder coach Billy Donovan had coached at AmericanAirlines Arena in his college days with the Florida Gators, going 4-0 in Orange Bowl Classics there in the early 2000s _ with Heat F Udonis Haslem helping get one of those wins. … Westbrook has reached 25 points in 11 of 19 games this season.
Heat: Josh McRoberts had eight points midway through the second quarter, matching what was his season high. He finished with 12. … The Heat were 7 for 15 from the foul line in the first half. … Miami rookie Justise Winslow spent much of his time guarding Durant, adding him to a list of defensive assignments that includes, among others, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and James Harden in his first two professional months.
The first quarter was loaded with statistical oddities for the Thunder. Durant picked up two fouls in the first 4:30, the first time that’s happened in a regular-season game since March 29, 2009 (or in any game since May 13, 2011). Westbrook scored 15 points, the most anyone has scored against Miami in any quarter all season. And the Thunder went a full quarter without trying a 3-pointer, the first time that’s happened this season.
The Heat are the first team in the East to already have 12 home games complete. Out West, the Los Angeles Clippers (13) and Houston (12) are also that far into their home schedules.
Thunder: Host Sacramento on Sunday.
Heat: Host Cleveland on Saturday.