Heat survive Thunder rally for 100-96 win
By BRIAN MAHONEY
Posted Jun 15 2012 4:20AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) LeBron James had received plenty of help from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and now he had to finish it on his own.
With what Wade called the loudest crowd he’d ever heard booing, certain James had just fouled Kevin Durant, the league’s MVP walked to the free throw line with 7.1 seconds left and the Miami Heat’s huge lead down to two points.
The guy who has endured too many fourth-quarter failures wasn’t letting another NBA Finals game get away.
James made both free throws, completing a 12-for-12 performance at the line and a 32-point night, and the Heat held on for a 100-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night that evened the series at one game apiece.
“On a big stage like this in a big game like this, every point counts, every point matters. So you go to the free throw line, no matter how hostile the environment, and try to knock them down,” James said.
“Like I said, I’m happy that I was able to go up there and make a few plays, go up there and make my free throws. We needed it. We needed every point tonight.”
Wade rebounded from a poor opener to add 24 points and Bosh had 16 points and 15 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup for the Heat, who needed a big night from their Big Three to snap a four-game finals losing streak with their first victory since Game 3 against Dallas last year.
“It’s been so long since we’ve had them all together,” Heat forward Shane Battier said. “They played like the All-Stars that they are and that’s the effort that we need.”
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.
Miami blew a 13-point lead in Game 1 and seemed headed toward a repeat of the second game of the finals last year, when it blew a 15-point edge on its home floor.
Not this time.
“This is a good team and we didn’t want to be down 2-0,” Bosh said. “We know in order to accomplish our goal, we have to win on the road. We’re a good road team. We’ve done it before. They posed a great challenge because they haven’t lost up until today. But we felt that we let one get away and we felt that we could play a much, much better game in Game 2.”
Durant scored 32 points for the Thunder, but missed a short jumper with 9.9 seconds left after appearing to be bumped by James. The basket would have tied a game the Thunder trailed the entire way.
Oklahoma City’s explosive point guard Russell Westbrook finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but shot 10 of 26 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.
“That was the game. We can’t start off down 18-2,” Durant said. “We can’t go down that much, especially at home. We’ve got to correct it.”
It was the first home loss in 10 postseason games for the Thunder, who have trailed by double digits in their last three games.
James had what was his career high, 30 points, in the opener, but afterward said Wade needed to be Wade – All-Star, Olympic gold medalist and finals MVP.