The Miami Heat played host to the Dallas Mavericks.
It was not an ordinary regular-season game. There was energy in the air — Slovenian energy.
Goran Dragic vs. Luka Doncic, for the first time in Downtown Miami. The energy was felt from nearly 2,000 Slovenian fans in attendance.
Moments after post-game interviews, the experience from the Slovenian fans who waited for Dragic after the game, continued cheering and chanting for him as if the game was still being played. Only then did I realize one of the teams won the game.
Dragic had 23 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his second career triple-double, the Heat (37-38) moved back into eighth place in the Eastern Conference by outlasting the Dallas Mavericks 105-99 on Thursday night.
“It felt like we were in Ljubljana,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, speaking of the Slovenian capital.
Coach “Spo” had a point.
Doncic scored 19 points for the Mavericks (29-46) but missed 12 of his 18 shots. When it was over, Doncic and Dragic — teammates on the Slovenian team that won the European championship two summers ago – exchanged jerseys.
It was the 35th, and final time Wade and Nowitzki faced off, including playoffs. Wade won the series, 18-17.
I expected jersey swapping between the NBA greats and future Hall of Famers Wade of the Heat and Nowitzki of the Mavericks.
That was not the case, with 4:03 to play in the game, a blind half-court shot turned into a marriage proposal for a local couple. It was that kind of night at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
“It was amazing,” Dragic said. “I felt I was playing in Ljubljana in Slovenia. It brings some old memories like we were playing in the finals. I really appreciate the fans for coming. To buy a ticket, to fly from a different continent here and to support us is something amazing.”
Dragic addressed the crowd who patiently waited 30 minutes after the game and signed autographs. His only other triple-double came in 2011 — 11 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for Houston over Minnesota in a season-finale.
The travel and price of admission were worth it.
Dallas led 82-75 going into the fourth period, but the Heat outscored the Mavericks 30-17 in the last 12 minutes.
“He’s the old Don and Luka is the new up-and-coming,” Wade said about Dragic. “So it was great to see him play that way.”
The Heat improved to just 4-29 in games where they trailed after three quarters.
The fact is this, Miami fans who cheered were drowned out and outnumbered by all the Slovenia jerseys were spotted in attendance. It was a beautiful thing.