MIAMI -- The pain was excruciating, but Luol Deng just couldn't wait.
Had matters gone according to standard protocol, Deng would have been escorted off the court by a trainer and guided into the locker room to get proper treatment for his dislocated finger.
But that would have taken too long.
Especially with the Miami Heat mounting a second-half comeback that erased a double-digit deficit against the Indiana Pacers on Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat eventually secured a 101-93 victory in overtime, but Deng couldn't have known it would work out so well.
As he headed into the tunnel behind the Heat's bench at the end of the third quarter after banging his right hand into the floor in pursuit of a loose ball, Deng told the Heat training staff he had no intention of going all the way back into the locker room.
"I told them, 'I can't wait that long,'" Deng said. "So I just went into the hallway and popped it back myself. And it was actually dislocated in two different spots."
As Deng told the story from his locker after the game, he kept rubbing the thick bandage that kept the middle finger on his right hand intact. He offered a re-enactment of the scene that took place a few steps off the court in the tunnel behind the Heat's bench.
The self-induced yank of one hand by the other.
The simultaneous scream that was drowned out by the cheers in the arena.
And, ultimately, the return to repeatedly throw his damaged hand into harm's way. Deng eventually snatched 16 rebounds to go with his 13 points in the latest display of sheer resilience from a Heat team that seems to be met with a fresh batch of adversity by the day.
"It's going to hurt a lot more [Tuesday] than it does now," Deng said. "I just couldn't deal with waiting. My mindset is, the more I wait, the more it's going to hurt."
More than anything else, that sentiment pretty much sums up where the Heat stand right now. They are finding new ways to numb the pain and refusing to wait on things to get better. That process is taking many forms these days.
About 90 minutes before Monday's game, Heat guard Dwyane Wade said the team can no longer wait for the clarity of knowing when -- or if -- leading scorer Chris Bosh will return from an undisclosed health condition that has kept him out the past two weeks.
"We're not waiting to get the word on him," Wade said of Bosh. "We check up on him. That's our brother. But we know he's going to do everything possible to get back on the court with us. I can't wait on that, just like the last two games, they couldn't wait on me."
Soon after those comments, Wade returned to the lineup from a two-game absence caused by a sore left knee and played 39 minutes to help Miami improve to 3-0 since the All-Star break. In those previous two games, Wade watched Goran Dragic and Deng guide the Heat to two of their best offensive performances of the season, when they scored a combined 229 points against Atlanta and Washington.
For much of the season, Dragic and Deng had struggled to find consistent comfort zones in a Wade-and-Bosh dominated offense that ranked next to last in the NBA in pace. But with Bosh and Wade both sidelined for the first two games after All-Star Weekend, Deng and Dragic thrived amid a faster pace, more space and enhanced roles within the scheme.
Sure, the sample size was minimal. Yet hope and optimism lingered that when Wade returned to action, he would find a fit within the Heat's new flow. He insisted the team shouldn't wait on him to get going, and after Wade missed his first 10 shots on Monday, his teammates became more aggressive.
By the final stages in the fourth quarter and for much of overtime, Dragic ran the offense and the Heat eventually ran away from the Pacers. Or, rather, limped away.
Miami entered the week with just 13 players on the roster after last week's trade deadline, but they had only 11 available bodies without Bosh and as reserve guard Tyler Johnson recovers from shoulder surgery. The situation grew worse when backup point guard Beno Udrih left Monday's game with a foot injury after he played just six minutes. An MRI taken during the game was negative, but Udrih didn't return. Deng's finger injury came in the third quarter, and center Hassan Whiteside was treated for a hit to his mouth.
As a result, Wade ended up playing about 10 more minutes than Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had planned for him to play in his first game back from treatment for knee soreness. And on top of everything else, Spoelstra's staff was down two assistant coaches on Monday, with Juwan Howard away from the team following the death of his mother. The Heat have been without assistant Keith Smart for nearly a month amid his second leave of absence this season to treat a rare form of skin cancer.
The blows seem to keep coming.
Through perseverance, the Heat keep rolling with the punches.
"We're holding it together, and you just keep moving forward," Spoelstra said. "You just keep on plugging away. You build up some resiliency from that. It's just been an interesting week."
And the intrigue only grows from here.
Next up: Golden State visits Miami on Wednesday.
Considering how much the Heat have endured already this season, don't expect them to be rattled going in against the overwhelmingly dominant defending NBA champions.
"We never quit," Dragic said. "We never use excuses when somebody's out. We're always going to perform and try to win these games. We know now that everybody can step in and play. You're not thinking too much. You just go out there and do it. I think we're getting there."
The Heat have hit a surprising stride.
One pain tolerance threshold at a time.