By Tim Reynolds
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MIAMI _ The league’s leading shot blocker was coming at him, and even that wasn’t enough to bother Stephen Curry.
It was the biggest moment of the night, and the MVP delivered.
Curry connected on the go-ahead 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of Miami centre Hassan Whiteside with 38 seconds left, and the Golden State Warriors beat the Miami Heat 118-112 on Wednesday night in a game that featured 13 lead changes in the fourth quarter alone.
“It was a huge test,” Curry said. “On the road, any time you play against a playoff basketball team, it’s going to be a tough task.”
Curry finished with 42 points, and Klay Thompson scored 15 consecutive points for Golden State in the fourth on his way to a 33-point night.
Curry made a pair of free throws with 18.5 seconds left to get to the 40-point mark for the ninth time this season, and soon the Warriors walked off a winner for the 51st time in 56 games this season.
But Miami more than made them earn it.
“We had our opportunities,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Our guys played their butts off. … This is for competitors only. This is competition at its finest.”
Dwyane Wade had a season-high 32 points and seven assists for the Heat, who led by 12 early and went up 108-107 when Wade made a pair of free throws with 56.5 seconds left.
On the next possession, Whiteside blocked a 3-point try from Draymond Green _ his Twitter nemesis, after they exchanged words on the social media platform last year _ but the ball found its way to Curry, who connected.
“A great player made some great plays at the end,” Wade said. “We did enough to win the ballgame, we just didn’t come out with it. If we can play the way we did tonight the rest of the season we will win most of those games.”
Whiteside had 21 points and 13 rebounds for Miami, which got 16 points from Luol Deng and 15 from rookie Josh Richardson. Harrison Barnes scored 11 and Green finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Warriors.
For a team that has had its resilience tested mightily lately _ first the loss of All-Star forward Chris Bosh to a blood clot in his leg, presumably for the rest of the season, and now backup point guard Beno Udrih to season-ending foot surgery _ the Heat came out flying. They held Golden State to 35 per cent shooting in the first quarter, leading by as many as 12 in the early going.
Curry kept the Warriors in it: He was 6 for 11 in the opening quarter, including a 40-footer to end the period. His teammates were just 2 for 12 in the opening 12 minutes.
Miami’s lead was 55-51 at the half, and the Heat survived an early spurt by the Warriors out of intermission to take an 83-80 edge into the fourth. With Wade and Curry on their respective benches getting breathers for the stretch run, the lead changed hands five times in a 2-minute span early in the fourth, neither team able to grab control.
That is, until the final minute, when the MVP did what MVPs do.
“Miami outplayed us much of the game,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “But we hung in there until Steph and Klay took over.”
Warriors: Golden State now leads the all-time series against the Heat, 28-27. … The win keeps Golden State ahead of the pace Chicago set in its record-setting 72-10 season. The Bulls were 50-6 through 56 games.
Heat: Jim Kelly, Bernhard Langer and Guy Fieri were part of the celebrity lineup in attendance. … Wade and Whiteside both got off to 5-for-5 starts from the field. … Whiteside got his 22nd double-double, matching his total from last season.
Wednesday marked 20 years and one day since the Heat managed to beat Chicago during that 72-10 season by the Bulls. On Feb. 23, 1996, Rex Chapman was 9 for 10 from 3-point range on his way to a 39-point effort, and Miami _ with only eight players available because of a trade _ survived a 31-point night from Michael Jordan and beat the Bulls 113-104 at Miami Arena. Kerr was 7 for 9 for the Bulls that night, scoring 19.
Anderson Varejao made his debut for Golden State, scoring one point and grabbing three rebounds in 10 minutes. Varejao is in his 12th season, and hopes that his experience will make the Warriors even better. “It’s great to be part of a winning organization, a great organization, one that’s very well coached and with great players,” Varejao said.
Warriors: Visit Orlando on Thursday.
Heat: Visit Boston on Saturday.