Eight points isn't a particularly easy deficit to make up in less than 90 seconds. Dwyane Wade came this close to helping the Heat do just that against the Clips last night.
After Baron Davis hit a fadeaway to put the home team up by a 97-89 count with 1:23 to play, Wade responded with a baby jumper, a trey and a dish off of penetration to a wide open Udonis Haslem for the jumper that cut the Clips' lead to one with 7.6 seconds remaining.
And that was all before the drama even started.
Leading 97-96, the Clips called timeout to advance the ball to the frontcourt. If they could successfully inbound the ball, Miami would be forced to foul in order to extend the game.
Wade had other ideas.
The man known as Flash read Baron Davis perfectly and sprinted toward the sideline near midcourt to intercept the Clipper guard's pass toward the time line. As Wade reached the boundary, he left his feet and in one motion grabbed the ball, turned and flung it back in the direction of teammates already breaking toward the Miami basket. Behind him, referee Courtney Kirkland - originally in just the position to need to scramble out of Wade's way - lay flat on his back on top of the scorer's table.
I'm still unsure as to which referee blew it, but one of them definitely did so just as Wade was throwing the ball back toward the middle of the floor. In real time, Wade looked to be very close to the sideline, and an out-of-bounds call seemed reasonable.
The officials conferenced, and as they did, the Clippers announcers informed us that Wade was claiming that he had attempted to call timeout while in the air. The officials weren't having it. Clippers ball came the signal.
It was at this point that I saw something that I can't recall ever seeing prior: A team got a crucial call changed by what appeared to be simple virtue of arguing. Sure, every now and again, the officials come together after a play in the midst of a game and reverse an out-of-bounds call or settle an internal block-charge argument. But it rarely happens in the final seconds of a close game, and it never happens after the officials have already put their heads together to make a call.
But after the initial call was made, Erik Spoelstra (who constantly amuses me because he looks both as though he is perpetually coming out of the shower and just nearly old enough to be going to sophomore history class rather than coaching a professional basketball team) and several of his players immediately engaged the referees with their dissent. Whether Spoelstra was making the case that Wade was in bounds or had called timeout remains unclear. What is clear is that the officiating crew never consulted replay, yet moments later they met once more and then awarded Miami the ball. Watching television replays on my couch, Wade appeared clearly in bounds, but again, the officials didn't use consult video. I've never seen anything like this before.
Mike Dunleavy didn't seem too familiar with this process either, and he was predictably quite peeved.
But two timeouts, a foul (the Clips had one to give) and seven basketball seconds that seemed encapsulated in about half an hour of real time later, none of it mattered. Davis fouled Wade on the floor with 2.9 seconds to play, and on the ensuing inbounds, the Heat got nothing better than a falling-away 28-foot fling attempted by Wade over Marcus Camby, and it drew nothing but air. Ball game: Clippers 97, Heat 96.
The Heat couldn't roar all the way back in Los Angeles, but thanks to five points, a key assist and a huh-yuge steal from Dwyane Wade in the final 83 seconds, they sure made it close. Meanwhile, officials Courtney Kirkland, Greg Willard and Ron Olesiak reminded me once more that there is a first time for everything.
I'll be waking in less than four hours to head to the airport for an early flight, but getting to see the finish to this one makes the sleep deprivation well worth it.