When a superstar named Dwyane Wade forced a turnover on a steal and brilliantly delivered to LeBron James for a dramatic dunk that capped the go-ahead point with 1:27 left, an energetic crowd erupted in a raucous, wild frenzy and finally released the successive deficiencies of anguish, humiliation and animosity.
The state of the Miami Heat wasn't impeccable, but an unsolved teaser with the repetition of letdowns and horrific droughts of late that pretty much, sadly, elicited fear and softness for arguably the greatest trio all-time in NBA history. This was an installment for assurance, a cure to aspiration for a much-scrutinized franchise with signs of life in South Beach after all, where a local crowd feverishly screamed fiercely for the Heat.
And not a soul burst into tears.
The array of transition plays in the final minutes symbolized the Heat's revival, not to mention Wade's clutch performance for driving Miami to a decisive 94-88 win over the red-hot Los Angeles Lakers to snap a five-game losing skid and hand the two-time defending champions their first loss in nine games.
The horrifying woes vanished, on a night that Chris Bosh lead in scoring with 24 points, on a night that Mario Chalmers and Mike Bibby shared minutes to combine for 15 points and even on a night that Mike Miller had 12 points to contribute off the bench, grabbing seven rebounds to outplay the Lakers. For all the talk about Wade not getting enough touches, frustrated with his lack of help in the critical moments of the game, he orchestrated meaningful plays down the stretch and had the ball as the clock ticked.
He came in with a much-maligned demeanor, scoring eight of his 20 points in the fourth quarter that particularly relieved the pressure and restored faith as the regular-season comes to a close; if Wade takes over the game in the end, it's a better chance the Heat can outduel its tough opponents in the upcoming weeks.
When it mattered the most, against a superstar cast from Los Angeles with size and the best closer in the game currently, the Heat stopped crying, LeBaby earned his name LeBron back and they came alive to play with plenty of heart.
For the Heat, riding a five-game losing streak in bad timing, ultimately, this was a must-have to purge the misery over the course of the last few days; that wasn't the case Thursday night when the Heat avoided widespread derision, taken seriously finally for defeating the Lakers, as Miami wore angry and vindictive facial expressions.
"What better game than this game to get back on track," Wade said after the Heat win.
The Heat, once lifeless, gutless and lethargic, have resurrected before suffocating mightily and minimized the burdens that hunted Miami, drawing plenty of doubts. It just so happens, by capitalizing in a tense, tight breathtaking contest down the stretch, that the Heat were successful in each meeting this season and swept the Lakers in the season series, the first coming on Christmas Day when James and the Heat demoralized L.A. with a miserable rout at Staples Center.
In the wake of the full-blown stories, for three of the high-profile athletes, the Heat were ridiculed after head coach Erik Spoelstra created a media circus by publicly disclosing that several of his players cried hopelessly behind close doors in the locker room following a heartbreaking loss to the Chicago Bulls Sunday.
What's really disappointing, even if the Heat assembled the best talent in the NBA last summer for a famous town in America not really known for its sports, is that Miami isn't as advertised and hasn't surmounted to superiority, but has toppled to become vulnerable in a competitive league built with phenomenal star power.
Meanwhile, the Heat, considerably a favorite to claim a berth in the NBA Finals this season, only if they can suddenly compile victories and play as a trio that allows Miami to rule the Eastern Conference, secured its identity and remains shielded from harm. This time, meanwhile, Phil Jackson's psychological mind games only enhanced the Heat's performance level and inspired them to play with much urgency and rid the motionlessness. It was clearly a game Miami desperately needed to rectify themselves of struggles and tone down the criticism.
Before the game, of course, Jackson talked to the media and derided the Heat's offense, referring to it as "X-Box" basketball full of one-on-one. For once, when the stagnant Lakers disappeared in the second-half, the boys from South Beach were pumped and Bosh finally played like a stud. At best, he was pesky in the post, a primary factor early as James was the distributor and pushed the ball down the floor to involve his teammates.
"It's a stubborn group to keep grinding away and continue to put ourselves in that position where you can fail or succeed," said Spoelstra, who can dismiss the speculations slightly of his firing.
By snapping a disappointing losing streak, the Heat proved to non-believers that they can contend with the relevant teams, including the Lakers when the Big Three ended the painful fiascoes.
Yet, in this particularly event, Bosh fulfilled his demand and buried shots in the low post, collecting nine boards for an all-around masterful game. All those Heat players had swagger, played with heart and healed the wounds of further destruction to shun away from a loss that would have mentally and physically threatened the state of Miami, a franchise assembled by the mastermind Pat Riley.
“We had everything riding on this game, to be honest with you,” Bosh said.
Shortly after a shoddy 105-96 loss to Portland Tuesday night, speculations were immense whether Spoelstra is capable of shrewdly guiding the Heat, but in truth, he's not the proper head coach for the job. To retain Spoelstra, when he has no personality or an urge to inspire his players, is a mindless choice for a clever architect as brilliant as Riley.
With any intentions to bring in a powerful voice to be a mentor and instill the fundamentals of urgency and dominance, he'd hire Larry Brown as the next Heat coach, but he plans on holding on to Spoelstra, a weak-minded coach mostly blamed for the Heat's surprising collapse. The demise almost blemished the Heat, but for whatever reason, Riley offered support for his coach on Wednesday.
"It's the media being neurotic," Riley told the Newark Star-Ledger during the preliminary rounds of the Big East conference tournament at Madison Square Garden.
"It's their need to make a story, create a story and make that story come true. And that ain't going to happen. Write it off."
There's no doubt the Heat aren't forgotten, handling the Lakers twice this season as a way to reduce the tears from rolling down their despaired faces. The Heat aren't done yet.
“It feels good to win a game the way you’ve been losing games,” Wade said. “We had to find a way and we did that.”
Gosh, babies grow fast these days. Just like that, the Heat were men—the Big Three we expected all along.