Just when you think you're through with this team, tired of its inconsistent ways, ready to give up on the playoff push, waiting to see what's on tap during the summer makeover, Miami goes out and does something like this.
This, would be the 114-111 overtime victory against the defending champion Lakers on Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena. This, would have the audacity to come after consecutive home losses to Minnesota and Milwaukee and a harder-than-it-had-to-be victory over depleted Golden State.
This, would be the breakthrough moment against a major contender that evaded the Heat in previous heart-breaking losses to these very same Lakers on the road three months ago, but also here at home against Boston and Cleveland.
While it's always dangerous to predict where the Heat will go from here, it's a no-brainer to assume that this one was needed. It wasn't all Dwyane Wade all the time, either. It was, as Wade said, "one of our best team wins of the season."
Three months ago, Kobe killed the Heat with that twisting, running, banked-in three-pointer in Los Angeles. This time, Miami took him down at the finish after absorbing 39 points from Bryant. At 31-31, it's back to .500 for the Heat. Now, where does Miami go from here?
D. WADE'S DOINGS: Wade pitched an all-around gem against one of the toughest on-ball defenders in the league. Ron Artest gave Wade fits at times Thursday. But Wade kept coming back and closed with 27 points, a season-high 14 assists and five rebounds in 42 minutes. Artest did play a huge role in forcing Wade into six turnovers. But he still finished with an assist-to-turnover ratio better than 2-1. At a time when Wade could have taken over the game, and taken all of the shots, he was at his distributing best. There were the feeds in the fourth quarter to O'Neal. There was the dish at the end of regulation for a huge three from Quentin Richardson. There was the chemistry with Carlos Arroyo in the backcourt. Wade actually thanked his teammates for stepping up. "They made me look good," Wade said. "I appreciate those guys for making me look better."
TURNING POINT: During a game that set an NBA season high with 31 lead changes, one play proved to be the turning point. That came when Bryant turned down the lane and took off for what would have been the game-tying layup with 18 seconds left. But Jermaine O'Neal stepped over and took his team-leading 19th charge of the season. Carlos Arroyo hit two free to put the Heat ahead 113-109, and it was over.
WINNING/LOSING EDGE: All the key numbers were slightly in the Heat's favor. Miami outshot the Lakers 47.4 percent to 26.1 from the three-point line, 84 percent to 60 percent from the foul line and scored 24 points off 16 Lakers turnovers.
HEAD-SCRATCHER: Erik Spoelstra has taken his share of criticism this season. And he's deserved a lot of it for the way some things have gone. But I'm wondering how much credit he'll get from blog-nation tonight for a few of the subtle things he did to help his team get its biggest home win of the season. It took long enough, but the move to re-insert Carlos Arroyo as the starter at point guard paid off big time. Arroyo has continued to show he is the best option among the group at point guard. Going to Jamaal Magloire down the stretch to help wear down Pau Gasol was also a solid move. The limited doses of zone defense were timely against a Lakers squad that missed 17 of 23 from beyond the arc. Spo also had the guts to go with two point guards to counter the Lakers' double-headed point guard unit. Spo was a bit late on the decision to double Kobe in overtime. Bryant did torch the Heat for 12 straight points. But he made the adjustment before it buried the Heat. I'm not saying one game fixes all. But give the man credit when credit's due.
KEY CONTRIBUTION: Now this was the version of Quentin Richardson that used to date Brandy. Remember? Back when he was balling with Phoenix and the Clippers? Clutch shooter. Big-time scorer. It was throw-back night for Richardson, who had a season-high 25 points and made a season-high 7 threes to go with five rebounds, three steals and a block. He took a beating defensively while trying to guard Kobe. But Q kept his chin up and didn't back down. He was there in the clutch for Wade, who passed to Richardson for the three-pointer that put the Heat ahead late in the fourth quarter. Richardson has been a microcosm of the Heat. When he's good, he puts up All-Star numbers. When he's bad, it's awful. Perhaps he's on the upswing again.
NEXT UP: Atlanta Hawks at Heat, 7:30 Saturday - AmericanAirlines Arena.