This Day In HEAT History: Tim Hardaway Hits Clutch Three In Franchise’s First Series Win

If you’ve watched enough HEAT games over the years, you should be familiar with the term “Road Warriors.” Often after big wins away from home, Eric Reid likes to characterize the HEAT as such. But do you know how and when that phrase came about?

It all started during the 1996-97 season.

Thanks in large part to Alonzo Mourning and free-agent acquisitions P.J. Brown and Dan Majerle, Miami had the best defense in the league and allowed just 100.6 points per 100 possessions. As such, the team went 61-21 during the regular season (which is still the second-best record in HEAT history), including a franchise-best 32-9 on the road.

“They are the ones that planted the seed that established the foundation with Zo and Keith [Askins] and Tim Hardaway,” Pat Riley said in a past “Inside The HEAT 20th Anniversary” documentary. “A real foundation and a work ethic that I think made sense, mattered, counted and was respected around the league.”

Not only did the HEAT win their first division title that year, but they also earned their first playoff-series win when they nabbed the second seed and matched up with the seventh-seeded Magic.

After blowing out Orlando in Games 1 and 2, it seemed as though Miami was on its way to a sweep. However, Penny Hardaway single-handedly forced a Game 5 with back-to-back 40-point performances.

And in that Game 5 on May 4, 1997, Mourning and Voshon Lenard carried the load on both ends to help the HEAT take a 69-53 lead entering the fourth. Majerle did his thing from there (he scored eight of his 11 points in the final period), but Penny, Nick Anderson and Darrell Armstrong led a furious rally to get the Magic within three with 35 seconds left.

Then Timmy answered right back with a dagger three to finally put Orlando away.

“The legend of Tim Hardaway, it began to grow in Miami with that game,” Reid said. “When the HEAT needed to score most late in the game, Tim Hardaway made the biggest shot of that night.”

The founder of the “killer crossover” ended up with 11 points, a game-high 11 assists, two boards and two steals, while Mourning amassed a team-high 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting, 12 boards (five offensive) and a game-high four blocks, and Lenard tallied 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-9 from deep, three boards, two steals and an assist in the 91-83 series-clinching victory.