By TIM REYNOLDS AP Basketball Writer
MIAMI (AP) — Goran Dragic had 23 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his second career triple-double, Dwyane Wade capped the win with a steal and score in the final seconds and the Heat moved back into eighth place in the Eastern Conference by topping the Dallas Mavericks 105-99 on Thursday night.
Dragic outdueled Luka Doncic in the first head-to-head meeting between the only two Slovenians currently in the NBA, and Miami (37-38) moved past Orlando (37-39) for the final playoff spot in the East race.
Doncic scored 19 points for the Mavericks, but missed 12 of his 18 shots. Dirk Nowitzki scored 13 points for Dallas, as did Jalen Brunson.
Dion Waiters scored 17 points for the Heat, who improved to just 4-29 in games where they trailed entering the fourth quarter. Dallas led 82-75 going into the final period, but the Heat outscored the Mavericks 30-17 in the last 12 minutes.
Dallas led by 11 points in the first half, and took a 59-49 lead into the locker room after a tip dunk by Dorian Finney-Smith beat the halftime buzzer. But Wade hit a jumper with 1:11 left to put Miami on top for good, Doncic missed a long 3-pointer on the next Dallas trip down the floor and Dragic extended Miami’s lead to 100-97 with a nifty up-and-under move on the ensuing Heat possession.
As many as 2,000 Slovenians were expected at the game — countless Slovenia jerseys were spotted in the stands, as well as plenty of fans wearing scarves bearing the country’s name, all for very good reason.
They were there for Dragic vs. Doncic.
And Dragic put on a show.
His only other triple-double came in 2011 — 11 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for Houston over Minnesota in a season-finale. That was basically meaningless. This one meant plenty to the Heat, fighting to get into the playoffs in Wade’s final season, and a loss to the team that they faced in the 2006 and 2011 NBA Finals certainly would have hurt those postseason chances.
Nowitzki had a chance to tie with a 3-pointer — shooting it over a closeout by Wade — with 59 seconds left. Nowitzki’s shot sailed long, and the Heat could finally exhale when Wade got a steal and laid it in to cap the scoring with seven seconds left.
“He looks like he’s got a couple years left,” Nowitzki said about Wade. “He can still take games over, he’s making good decisions with the ball, he’s still athletic enough to get by people. So to me, he looks great.”
Mavericks: Dallas dealt with a couple injury scares early — Nowitzki rolled his ankle pregame but started the game, and Doncic left after 3 minutes following a knee-to-knee collision with Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr. Doncic returned later in the first quarter. … Justin Jackson turned 24 on Thursday. … Mavs assistant Jenny Boucek was an assistant for WNBA’s Miami Sol, under the original Heat coach Ron Rothstein.
Heat: Josh Richarsdson (bruised left heel) was out Thursday, joining Justise Winslow (sore right thigh) and Rodney McGruder (sore left knee) as Heat regulars out with injuries. It’s unclear if any will be able to play in New York on Saturday. … Friday is the 16th anniversary of Wade’s triple-double — 29 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists — in the NCAA tournament for Marquette against Kentucky, the game that sent him to the Final Four.
DIRK IN MIAMI
This was the 27th — and possibly final — time Nowitzki appeared in a game at Miami; the Mavs went 13-14 in those games, the most notable win of course being the title-clinching Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals. He says being in Miami brings back memories of both “the most epic collapse” in the 2006 finals, and the 2011 victory. “Little bit of mixed emotions, but usually, the good memories win,” Nowitzki said.
With Richardson sidelined for only the third time this season, the Heat used their 25th starting lineup. That ties last season’s club for the third-most in franchise history behind 31 in 2014-15 and 30 in 2007-08. Entering Thursday only New Orleans (29), Cleveland (28) and Phoenix (26) have used more starting fives. The NBA average is just under 18, and Orlando — with only eight lineups so far — has used the fewest in the league.
Mavericks: At Oklahoma City on Sunday.
Heat: At New York on Saturday.