SACRAMENTO (AP) — With one well-timed heave from deep in the left corner, Miami’s Luol Deng erased what would have been another epic collapse by the Heat and pushed his team one step closer to the playoffs.
What a difference 48 hours makes.
Two nights after blowing a big lead and losing in overtime to the Lakers, the Heat nearly let another one get away before Deng’s 3-pointer with 45.7 seconds left halted the slide and lifted Miami to a 112-106 win over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.
“We said this all along that this is going to be a harrowing ride down the stretch,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said. “You can get caught watching what other teams are doing, but ultimately it’s in our hands.”
The Heat won despite playing without leading scorer Dwayne Wade, who was injured during Wednesday’s loss to the Lakers and watched the game from Miami’s bench in street clothes.
Gerald Green started in place of Wade and scored a season-high 30 points. He also picked up a critical technical foul late in the fourth quarter that helped fuel the Kings’ comeback after they trailed by as much as 24.
Deng finished with 17 points, while Goran Dragic added 18 points and seven assists for Miami, which completed its second straight season sweep of Sacramento.
“Obviously, everybody was disappointed about the Lakers loss,” Green said. “Even though the Kings played very well, we just stayed patient, we stayed the course, listened to the game plan and everything (worked out).”
Darren Collison scored 11 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to pace Sacramento. Seth Curry had 21 and Rudy Gay added 20.
Miami (44-31) moved into a tie with Charlotte for third place in the Eastern Conference with seven games remaining. The Heat have a better division record than the Hornets and would get the higher seed in the postseason if the teams finish in a tie.
It would have been a much different story had the Heat not held off the Kings’ late push.
Sacramento trailed by as much as 24 and was down 92-76 heading into the fourth quarter, but pulled within one at 105-104 on Kosta Koufos’ putback with 1:34 remaining.
Joe Johnson made a baseline jumper to put the Heat up 107-104 before Deng connected on his third 3-pointer of the game. Dragic added two free throws down the stretch to help seal the win.
Johnson had 14 points and eight assists, while Justise Winslow scored 12 off the bench.
The Kings were also short-handed while center DeMarcus Cousins sat out a mandatory one-game suspension after receiving his 16th technical foul earlier this week.
“We’ve been dealing with injuries and we’ve been dealing with other things off the court,” Collison said. “I’m just proud guys have continued to stay with it. It’s going to pay off in the near future, believe it or not.”
GREEN GOES OFF
Green has had a rough first year in Miami, from a two-game team suspension in November to a season-long shooting slump. He got some redemption against the Kings, tying his season high of five 3-pointers before heading to the bench for most of the fourth quarter. “The last two months, the media has been killing me,” said Green after shooting 11 of 19. “I’m just motivated. I haven’t really been playing that well, but it was good to see some shots go in — but even better for us to win.”
Heat: Wade is nursing a sore back and neck after he took a hard fall in the loss to the Lakers and may be held out against Portland as well. ... Hassan Whiteside had three blocks to raise his league-leading total to 245.
Kings: Cousins will join the team for its trip to Denver, but isn’t likely to play. The team plans to play the big man only in home games the remainder of the season. The Kings are 2-11 without Cousins this season and 13-43 overall when he doesn’t play. ... G Marco Belinelli (sore right foot) did not play. ... Omri Casspi strained his right hamstring in the first half and did not return.
Heat: At Portland on Saturday.
Kings: At Denver on Saturday.