MIAMI -- This was not opening night and one final celebration of an NBA Championship.
Nor was it the season's first road game amid the unusualness produced by a storm of the century.
This was the unofficial beginning of the long grind.
The Miami Heat, despite a third straight poor defensive effort, trailed the Denver Nuggets by only one point with 14.1 seconds left Saturday night.
Miami had the ball, a timeout and, oh, the options.
Whose shot would be responsible for deciding the team's fate?
LeBron James, the league's best player who can hurt a team so many ways?
Dwyne Wade, not far behind James in terms of being an elite player?
Chris Bosh, who already had scored 40 points?
Ray Allen, whose hot hand had been 7 of 11 with 19 points?
Just who would be The Guy this night?
"It was up to LeBron to make the read," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Try to get him in the paint and let him do what he does best, which is make decisions in split seconds."
James relied on his love of improvisation.
"I never pre-determine my plays," James said. "Once I drove left and got eye contact with (Denver's Corey) Brewer, I knew Ray was going to slide to the corner.
"We haven't been playing that long but I've seen him on the side, I knew exactly what he was going to do."
Well, almost. Not even James envisioned a four-point play.
"I got to that corner, Brewer helped and turned his head for one split second and LeBron found me, " Allen said, "and it was curtains."
It sure was.
Allen sank a 3-pointer from the left corner despite being fouled by Brewer, then sank the free throw for a four-point play with 6.7 seconds remaining to give Miami a 119-116 victory in game No. 3 of 82.
A four-point play to win a game? Crazy.
"I think it's more absurd to see how the greatest 3-point shooter of all time be open," James said.
Allen brought his long-range shooting ability from Boston to Miami when he signed as a free agent during the offseason. He scored 19 points in an emotional season-opening win against his former team, then managed just five points in Friday's loss at New York.
Then came Saturday night's performance.
"It's pure exhilaration for me because of everything that I've gone through this summer to get here and to get prepared and find a way to help this team win," Allen said.
His new teammates shared the feeling.
"I told him I'm glad he is on our team now," Bosh said. "We've seen that corner fadeaway 3 so many times and it wasn't a good feeling when it went in.
"It's a reversal now. We're just happy to have him on our team."
Allen's game-winning exploits overshadowed the effort by Bosh.
Wait a second, Bosh overshadowed? Not really a surprise, only this time it wasn't due to James or Wade.
It was largely Bosh, however, who kept the Heat in the game.
Miami allowed 66 first-half points to a team that had scored 75 and 89 overall in losing its first two games at Philadelphia and at Orlando.
Bosh scored 20 points in the first half to help Miami stay within two points then 12 in the third quarter when the Heat held Denver to 25 points.
"I wanted to be aggressive -- that's my plan coming into every game," Bosh said. "But after I got some open looks, I got to the free-throw line a couple or times, I got some layups, things started feeling a little bit better."
But not as good as they felt after Allen's game-winning play.
"We have been on the other end of that pain," Spoelstra said, "when he puts the dagger to your heart with the 3."
Or in this case, a dagger with the 4.