Heat Beat Thunder, 100-96; Tie Series
OKLAHOMA CITY — LeBron James asked for help, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh provided it.
The Miami Heat finally rediscovered the formula to winning in the NBA Finals — barely.
James scored 32 points, Wade rebounded from a poor opener with 24 and the Heat built a huge early lead before holding off a furious fourth-quarter rally behind their three All-Stars to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-96 on Thursday night to tie the series at one game apiece.
Bosh had 16 points and 15 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup for the Heat, who snapped a four-game Finals losing streak with their first victory since Game 3 against Dallas last year.
“We’ve been down. We’ve withstood rallies. The good thing about it, when they scored, we didn’t get our head down. We just got back on offense and started to execute,” James said. “It’s a great team that we’re going against. So we’re going to need every effort, every play and it’s going to take all the way down to zeroes on that clock to get a win.”
Now they go home to host Game 3 on Sunday and the next two after that, knowing they don’t have to hear the noisy Thunder fans again — not to mention all their critics — if they win all three.
Kevin Durant scored 32 points for the Thunder, but missed a shot after appearing to be bumped with James that would have tied a game the Thunder trailed the entire way. Russell Westbrook finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but shot 10 of 25 from the field.
James Harden tried to keep the Thunder in it early and finished with 21 points, but this time the Thunder couldn’t come back from a double-digit deficit after spotting Miami a 17-point advantage during their worst first half of the season.
It was the first home loss in 10 postseason games for the Thunder, who had overcome a 13-point deficit in Game 1.
James had 30 points in the opener, but afterward said he needed more help from his friends, especially Wade.
In Game 1, Wade was 7 of 19. He wasn’t sharp in the last round and continues to hear reports that something is physically wrong with him. He was all but asked Wednesday if his explosiveness was a thing of the past, what must have been insulting to a player who, though 30, still believes he’s not far from the top of the game.
Wade bounced back in a big way, not quite at the level he was as the 2006 Finals MVP, but certainly good enough with the help around him now for the Heat to win another one.
He spun into the lane and found Bosh for a dunk that seemed to have the Heat safe at 98-91 inside the final minute, but a 3-pointer by Durant cut it to 98-96 with 37 seconds left. After James missed a 3-pointer, the Thunder got the ball into Durant, who appeared to be knocked off balance by James as he missed the baseline shot attempt.
James then sank the insurance free throws — finishing a 12-for-12 night at the line — as fans booed loudly over the no-call.
Bosh started after coming off the bench in every game since returning late last round from his nine-game absence with a strained lower abdominal muscle. The Big Three joined Battier and Mario Chalmers in the lineup, the first time Miami had gone with that first five all season.
It sent the Heat on their way to a terrific start, and Battier matched his surprising 17-point performance in Game 1 by going 5 of 7 from 3-point range, providing all the help the superstar trio needed.
James had his fifth straight 30-point game, breaking Wade’s franchise playoff record, and added eight rebounds. He defended Durant early in Game 1 and helped put the league’s scoring champion in early foul trouble, just one of the problems the Thunder had early.
Another loud, blue and white crowd tried to inspire them to rally, but the team could just simply never get close enough to until the final minutes.
The home team would get the deficit to around 10, and James would get himself into the post or drive powerfully into the lane to score or set up a teammate.