And down by three late in overtime, that's when the Heat finally decided to put things away.
LeBron James scored 38 points, Michael Beasley made two free throws with 9.2 seconds left to put Miami up for good, and the Heat beat the Atlanta Hawks 121-119 in overtime on Monday night -- topping the Hawks for the ninth straight time.
"Obviously, after going through what we experienced last year in The Finals, it's never over," James said. "So we just keep fighting until the end, and we were able to force overtime."
It didn't have the down-five, 28.2-seconds-left feel that Game 6 against San Antonio had in last June's title series.
But there was much drama, much to the chagrin of Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, an assistant on that Spurs club.
"They made a few big plays down the stretch and you've got to give them credit," Budenholzer said.
Korver put the Hawks up 107-100 with 1:40 left in regulation by connecting on a deep 3-pointer, a well-covered one at that. It came 20 seconds after the Heat temporarily lost Chris Bosh to a cut upper lip, courtesy of an elbow by Millsap on a drive.
From there, the Heat ignited.
James made a pair of 3-pointers, then a dunk with 14.4 seconds left in the fourth to get the Heat within one. And after seeing something in the Hawks' defense on the play where he got the slam, he approached Heat coach Erik Spoelstra with a tweak to a play that started with the Heat down three with 14 seconds left.
He adjusted Ray Allen's role on the play, and it worked. Allen got fouled by Atlanta's DeMarre Carroll while trying a 3-pointer with 8 seconds left in regulation, and needed all three free throws to tie the game.
Swish. Swish. Swish.
"I'm not even going to comment on it," Carroll said.
To overtime they went, and the Hawks were up three with 1:21 left after a score by Horford. Miami scored the game's final five points, with Chris Andersen getting three of them, plus snuffing out a lob that Atlanta threw to Korver at the rim down by one in the final seconds.
"We were able to stay the course, keep on grinding, get stops and execute one possession at a time," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Allen finished with 19 points, Mario Chalmers and Andersen each scored 12 and Bosh finished with 11 for the Heat, who played without Dwyane Wade.
One stop was all Miami needed from there, and the Heat found a way.
"They're an awesome offensive team," Bosh said. "They've been on a tear lately. We see why. ... It was difficult all night, but eventually we found a way."
It was all part of a game that had wild ebbs and flows.
The Hawks were scoreless for the game's first 4:48, falling behind big as the Heat had everything working early -- even a reverse dunk in transition from the suddenly spry Allen, who has been fighting tendinitis in his right knee for a few days. Shane Battier dove on the floor for a steal and to knock the ball ahead to James, who got loose for a dunk that put Miami up 13-0.
It all changed in a hurry in the second.
Atlanta shot 72 percent; the Heat shot 32 percent. The Hawks outscored the Heat 31-17 and had a 54-50 lead at the break, fueled largely by Korver taking four shots, all from 3-point range, all of them good.
Millsap went 4 for 4 from beyond the arc in the third, Atlanta made six in all and led by as many as 11 before going into the fourth up 84-77.
"There were a lot of good things we did," Millsap said.
Korver's NBA-record streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer is now at 97. ... The Heat ran a tribute to Nelson Mandela on the arena screens at halftime, narrated by Alonzo Mourning, who spoke of his time meeting the former South African president who died earlier this month. ... Including playoffs, the Heat went 47-7 at AmericanAirlines Arena in 2013. ... James has scored in double figures in 522 consecutive regular-season games, four shy of matching Moses Malone for the NBA's fourth-longest such streak.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 23: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat goes to the basket against the Atlanta Hawks on...
MVP: LeBron James scored 21 points in the second half and overtime to lead his team back to win the game. He finished the night with 38 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
X factor: Paul Millsap hit seven 3-pointers, his career high by far. The seven 3-pointers is what allowed the Hawks to build their lead in the third quarter. Millsap finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
Defining moment: Down one with possession of the ball with 2.8 seconds left in overtime, the Hawks ran a lob play for Kyle Korver. The play was great trickery and almost worked, but Korver missed the shot and Miami walked away with the victory.