MIAMI (AP) — The final horn sounded on the first Miami Heat home game of the season, and Dion Waiters walked toward midcourt with his hands held high over his head.
He was celebrating, and relieved.
Goran Dragic scored 23 points, Waiters added 19 and the Heat needed to scramble down the stretch to hold off the Indiana Pacers 112-108 on Saturday night. The Heat led by as many as 21 before seeing nearly all of that disappear in the final minutes.
“If you win by one, you got the win and that’s all that matters,” Waiters said. “We shouldn’t have put ourselves in that situation.”
James Johnson scored 14 points — including a pair of big free throws in the final seconds — and Kelly Olynyk added 13 for the Heat. Josh Richardson added 12 for Miami.
Victor Oladipo scored 28 points for Indiana, which got 18 from Domantas Sabonis and 14 from Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson. The Pacers were outscored 37-19 in the second quarter to get into trouble, and nearly pulled off a comeback by outscoring Miami 32-21 in the fourth.
“Once we cut it down to 10 going into the fourth we were giving ourselves a chance,” Young said. “This game we showed our fight and our effort but we came up a little short at the end.”
Oladipo’s stepback 3 with 25 seconds left cut Miami’s lead to 109-106, before Richardson made one of two free throws for the Heat to make it a two-possession game again. Cory Joseph’s runner with 12.9 seconds left bounced off the glass and dropped to get the Pacers within two — the closest the game was since the midpoint of the second quarter.
But Miami escaped, and avoided an 0-2 start.
“When we built the lead our defense was active, our deflections, hands, multiple efforts, that was more in the direction of how we want to get to with our identity,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “In the fourth quarter, it was more our offense getting us in trouble.”
A 13-0 second-quarter burst proved big for the Heat, with Olynyk scoring eight points — including a pair of 3-pointers — during that run. Tyler Johnson had a pair of assists in that spurt, and he took a pass from James Johnson for a dunk that put Miami up 61-47 late in the half.
Dragic hit a 3-pointer to put Miami up 87-66 midway through the third. The Heat were outscored 42-25 the rest of the way.
“I thought we were a little winded in that first half but we got our second wind in the second half,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said.
Pacers: It was the 17th time that Lance Stephenson played a game in Miami. His teams are 2-15 in those contests. … Indiana’s only other trip to Miami is early this year, coming on Nov. 19. … Jefferson had eight rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench.
Heat: Miami is 19-11 in home openers. … Jordan Mickey became the 171st player in Heat history to start a game. … James Johnson got the crowd roaring with a baseline dunk in the first quarter, elevating over and around Oladipo. … The Heat now have tri-captains, with James Johnson and Dragic joining longtime captain Udonis Haslem — who arranged for the team to have a suite at Sunday’s Dolphins-Jets game for some bonding time.
The Heat were without Hassan Whiteside (bruised knee) and the Pacers were without Myles Turner (concussion), so both teams were without their primary inside threat. Whiteside is being evaluated daily and the Heat haven’t said when he’ll return. Turner is in the NBA’s mandated concussion protocol and is likely to see doctors on Sunday.
Road teams always struggle in Miami-Indiana games. Including playoffs, the Heat are 13-1 in their last 14 home games against Indiana — while the Pacers are 11-1 in their last 12 home games against Miami.
Pacers: Indiana goes to Minnesota on Tuesday.
Heat: Miami’s six-game homestand continues Monday against Atlanta.