MIAMI — As soon as Kevin Durant dunked the ball to tie the game 102-102 with 11.7 seconds remaining, the Heat had to focus their attention on the impending offensive possession.
With no timeouts left, Miami didn’t have time to regroup. If the Heat wanted to avoid overtime, they would have to make something happen on the fly.
So Okaro White inbounded the ball to Dion Waiters. And the ball never left Waiters’ hands until he hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds remaining to lead the Heat (15-30) to a shocking 105-102 win over the Warriors (38-7) at AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday night.
The big shot was the perfect ending to a very productive two-game stretch for Waiters, as he’s averaged 33 points on 64.1 percent shooting over Miami’s past two wins.
“The calm,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of what stood out to him most about Waiters’ game-winning shot. “I got to talk to him. Was that just incredible calm or not necessarily knowing exactly what the situation was? But he’s not scared. He’s not afraid. He’s fearless. He wants those moments as much as anybody. He’s been pestering me about those kind of deals in the fourth quarter about having an opportunity to make plays.”
Waiters got that opportunity. After taking the inbound pass with no timeouts and 11.7 seconds remaining, Waiters knew the shot was his to take.
“We didn’t have a timeout,” Spoelstra said. “We didn’t have an opportunity to talk about it, but it was one of those situations that everybody knew it was going to get into Dion’s hands and he would make a play and we would live with it.”
It took Waiters 4.7 seconds to cross half-court. The Heat’s lineup of Wayne Ellington, James Johnson, Goran Dragic and White stood around the 3-point line to leave the middle of the floor open in case Waiters wanted to drive to the basket for the game-winner.
“Hell yeah,” Waiters said when asked if he wanted the ball in this situation. “Yeah, I did. It was a perfect opportunity for us. We didn’t have any timeouts, so it seemed like it was pretty much set up for us to go take it.”
And Waiters took it.
After crossing half-court, the 25-year-old floated to his right with Klay Thompson defending him. But Waiters never actually wanted to go right, as he prefers to shoot jumpers off the dribble going to his left.
“I really thought he was going to continue to play me to my right and not try to let me get back left, you know I like to go left,” Waiters said. “So once I see him let me cross back and get back to my left, I just knew. It felt good once I picked it up.”
Waiters used the crossover to get back to his left hand and to create space from Thompson. That’s all he needed.
“It wasn’t good defense,” Thompson said. “I got to press up on him, make him go around me. I made a big mistake. It cost us.”
“I was just thinking, I lie to you not, these were the moments that I practiced when I was kid,” Waiters said. “You know, you get out there by yourself, counting down ‘3, 2, 1.’ That was the opportunity for me just to seize the moment. I don’t shy away from those type of shots.”
“Dion read that beautifully,” Spoelstra said. “He was not going to give that up to anybody else.”
All that was left to do was watch the ball go in the basket. Waiters’ high arching shot found the net with 0.6 seconds remaining for what ended up being the game-winner.
“To leave it with only 0.6 seconds, you have to do that with this basketball team,” Spoelstra said. “You leave more time on the clock with those guys, you never know what’s going to happen. So he took it into his own hands and we didn’t have a timeout. And it was the right play, just to get a comfort shot off with as little time as possible and he was able to do that.”
“I love it,” Waiters said of the crowd. “Especially after I was in a great atmosphere last year in [Oklahoma City]. Miami has got that energy. The fans, they’re here every game, supporting us, and they give us that extra boost, man, that we need. And I appreciate them coming out every night, if it’s going our way or not. I just try to get them involved and keep them involved, especially on an exciting night like this.”
But Waiters didn’t let the moment end without something for Durant, a former Oklahoma City teammate and close friend. Waiters winked at Durant after the game-winner.
“He gave me a little wink,” Durant said. “It sucks seeing it go through the rim. But I guess the big brother in me can smile about it after the game. He played great.”
Here’s the game-winning sequence in its entirety …