AP Sports Writer
MIAMI — From the night he signed his contract with the Miami Heat, LeBron James has said he doesn't care who takes the last shot.
Plenty of criticism has not changed his stance.
“I'm not too concerned about what happens out there,” James said of those critics.
And on a recent Saturday night against Indiana, James went out and proved it again. He took Miami's biggest shots at the end of regulation, scoring eight points in 55 seconds to help the Heat force overtime. Then, in the extra session, he kick-started another rally with a 3-pointer and tried another 3 that would have given Miami the lead with 25 seconds left. It missed but Miami got the offensive rebound and James offered Dwyane Wade the chance to take over. Wade hit a game winner with 0.1 seconds left.
So James delivered at the end, and deferred at the end, all on the same night.
“Everybody wants to make a big deal about that last shot,” teammate Chris Bosh said. “Not that many people take that last shot. It's a very, very, very small percentage in the world, let alone the NBA, too. So we don't really worry about that. We just keep trusting each other. We keep playing our game. And we could just say, ‘Hey, it's my turn; it's my shot.’ Be selfish. But we don't. We get it to who we're supposed to get it to.”
In this case, that meant James … then Bosh … then Wade.
Late in regulation, James had a steal and dunk with 1:05 left, followed that with a three-point play, then tied the game with 10 seconds left on a 3-pointer from the right corner — and ensured it would go to
OT by locking down defensively against Pacers guard Darren Collison on what would have been Indiana's final play.
Down by 5 with less than two minutes left in overtime, James made a 3-pointer to start Miami's big finish. Bosh tied it with a pass from James nearly a minute later. James then missed a 3-pointer for the lead, got the ball back after an offensive rebound by Udonis Haslem and waved Wade over to take a turn.
Wade delivered. Ball game.
“There were so many big shots made to get to my shot,” Wade said.
Close games were a big issue for the Heat last season, when Miami went 6-14 in the regular season when the final margin was 5 points or fewer.
The record in that department after the Pacers game? 6-2.
Coach Erik Spoelstra offers a simple explanation.
“That comes with time,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody's gaining more trust. … All I know is that we have been in a lot of these situations. And I think some of the things we experienced last year forced us to have an incredible amount of focus and urgency when we work on it.”
Case in point: The Heat spent much of a recent practice working on those game-on-the-line scenarios. So when the situation arose against the Pacers, James said he knew exactly what Wade was going to do — and vice versa.
“We didn't panic,” James said.
With that record, Miami headed into probably its biggest week this season, losing at Orlando on Tuesday in OT 98-104 and was scheduled to play at Chicago this Wednesday, then at Philadelphia on Friday and back home for Orlando again next Sunday.
“I think we've come a long way,” Bosh said.
Sometimes when the Heat lose, even sometimes when the Heat win, James' decisions at the end of games get widely scrutinized.
His last-moment play has been under a giant microscope since the NBA finals. And, this season, the results haven't always been pretty: He missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game late in a loss to Golden State, missed two free throws in the final seconds of an overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers then had a dominant fourth quarter overshadowed when he passed to Haslem for the final shot of a one-point loss at Utah.
His decisions couldn't be questioned Saturday.
“LeBron, sometimes he's like a quarterback in there,” Bosh said. “He gets to call the plays.”
James wouldn't take the bait when asked about the second-guessing.
“I understand what comes with it,” James said. “I've made game winners. I've shot and missed game winners. I've made passes for game winners and I've made passes that didn't go in. … The coaching staff that I have here now and the coaching staff I had in Cleveland gave me all the confidence to make the right play at the end. And if I've got the ball in my hands I'm going to do that. So you live with the results.”