OAKLAND – Wall to wall, corner to corner and floor to ceiling, all through the Warriors locker room, there was no one to blame. Not a player, not a coach, not even an official.
Though gallant and at times no less than fabulous, the Warriors simply were LeBronned into stunned silence and sudden defeat on Wednesday night.
LeBron James, the world's greatest basketball player, made a shot for the ages, a soaring 3-point fadeaway jumper from somewhere near Milpitas, with 0.2 seconds remaining, leaving the Warriors with a 111-110 loss to the Miami Heat.
"I was going for the win the whole time," James said. "I just wanted to make sure either I made it with no time left or missed it with no time left. That was my only mindset."
As undesirable as the outcome was for the Warriors, James' game-winner was a fitting end to a night in which each team gave as well as it got. It was, like a championship fight, a night of knockdowns and recoveries and more knockdowns and recoveries.
"It was high-octane, offensive and defensively, really intense," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. "Both teams laid it out there."
James' shot came shortly after Stephen Curry had given the Warriors a 110-108 lead with an old-fashioned 3-point play with 14.6 seconds to go. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra pondered calling a timeout, was prepared to draw up a play, but in the end let his horse go.
"I tried to design something, but once he started to wind it up I decided I'd better not break his rhythm, and let a great player make a great play, make or miss," Spoelstra said. "And that's what he did."
Said Warriors coach Mark Jackson: "We witnessed greatness."
Though the Heat were without star guard Dwyane Wade, who sustained a foot injury before the game, LeBron's finishing flourish spoiled a determined effort by a Warriors team playing without centers Andrew Bogut and Jermaine O'Neal.
The Warriors (31-22) trailed for most of the game, but put together somes dazzling rallies. Down 75-54 in the third quarter, they went on a 33-9 run to go up 87-84 with 11:03 left. Miami (37-14) countered with a 17-5 run to go up 101-92 with 6:14 left.
The Warriors responded with an 18-7 run, gaining yet another lead – only for James to torch it.
"As far as the move he made and the way he was guarded, there's nothing you can change about that," said Andre Iguodala, who played snug defense on James. "There's nothing I would change. He just made a tough shot. You've got to give him credit for that."
That's why James has won four of the past five MVP awards, including the last two. He finished with game highs across the board: 36 points, 13 rebound and nine assists.
It was fantastic basketball, leaving a full house both crestfallen and utterly breathless.
THE GOOD: Curry made plenty of big shots, particularly in the second half, when he scored 19 of his 29 points. David Lee started slow but came on strong to finish with 21 points and 11 rebounds. The defense on James – mostly by Iguodala but also by Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Thompson – was about as solid as it could be.
THE BAD: The Warriors gave up too many layups and dunks to players not named LeBron. It's one thing to allow Chris Bosh to get 19 points, quite another to give up 16 (on 7-of-11 shooting) to Michael Beasley.
THE TAKE: The Warriors were flawed, so was Miami. The Warriors were superb, so was Miami. With the All-Star break looming, both teams pushed themselves about as far as they could go. As Curry noted, there are no moral victories; (the Warriors) were defeated by a transcendent player and an incredible shot. Props to LeBron.