On Wednesday night I was incredibly lucky to attend the Miami Heat v. Golden State Warriors game at AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami. The tickets were free thanks to a business connection from a great friend of mine that will be in my wedding. Sitting next to me was someone else who will be at my wedding, my fiancé. By no means could I afford the third row, baseline seats, but I sure did enjoy them.
The game was as good as a regular season NBA game can be, somewhat sloppy at times early, but very tense late. The Heat jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first half behind a scorching second quarter from Goran Dragic. The Warriors only kept pace because one of their sharp shooting wings, Klay Thompson, had an 18-point quarter of his own. DeMarcus Cousins was out due to load management on his still heeling Achilles, and Draymond Green sat for chunks of the game due to foul trouble. This cut back on Golden State’s firepower a bit, but this is still the two-time defending champs.
I have seen the Warriors live a few times over the last few seasons, and have yet to see a truly “wow” game. Obviously, I have watched plenty of them on TV but as a nerdy basketball fan, I have wanted to feel one of those iconic point avalanches in person. I saw one of their nine losses in the 2016 season in San Antonio, then I saw them lose a close game in Minnesota without Kevin Durant in 2017 and most recently I saw them lose in Dallas earlier this season with Green, Cousins and Steph Curry out. This was the most “full strength” I have been able to see them since they acquired KD in the summer of ’16, so I was hopeful for either a close game or an absolute show from the Warriors. I got the former.
As the third quarter played out, it was obvious that Golden State had decided to come out and play in the second half. They went on a couple of mini runs, but Miami kept them at bay, with Josh Richardson hitting a couple of timely shots to stave off the champs. In the fourth quarter, we got a glimpse of Durant’s full power as a scorer, as he hit difficult shots over whomever the Heat threw at him. It seemed like the Warriors were destined for the win when KD hit a three and was fouled by Bam Adebayo with just over a minute to play, and even more destined for said win after two free throws from Jordan Bell made it a four point game with just under 20 seconds to play. Dwyane Wade then hit a three to cut the lead to one and the Heat was forced to foul KD with 13 seconds left and no timeouts remaining. Durant missed the first free throw, at which point I turned to my fiancé and said, “we might get a fun little finish here”.
Durant made the second free throw to make the score 125-123 and Miami moved the ball up the floor in search of a game tying or winning bucket. The ball found its way to Dion Waiters on the left win, who momentarily looked as if he was going to force up a wild three with two defenders on him. Thankfully, Waiters decided to pass off to Wade who was alone at the top of the key. The second Wade caught the ball Durant and Bell converged on the Heat legend. Bell even blocked Wade’s first attempt, but in an act of desperation and athleticism, Wade controlled the ball and threw up a prayer off of one foot from behind the line that somehow banked in at the buzzer. Game over, Heat win.
Since I was just a kid, I have been lucky enough to see a whole host of now retired NBA legends play live during the twilight of their careers. Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Miller, Scottie Pippen, Hakeem Olajuwon, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, Gary Payton, Ray Allen, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett to name a few. You know their best days are past them, but you always hope for that brief moment or stretch of brilliance that you know they still have. Sometimes it never comes in the game you are at and you realize why in fact, they are in the twilight. But sometimes, like on Wednesday night, you are lucky enough to see more than a “flash”.