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Saturday, June 16, 2012

LeBron's 32 help Heat hold off Thunder, even NBA Finals

AP

OKLAHOMA CITY — LeBron James needed some help, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh provided it.

News photo
Throwing it down: Miami's LeBron James flies in for a dunk over Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka in the first half of Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Thursday. The Heat won 100-96 to even the series 1-1. AP

The Miami Heat finally rediscovered the formula to winning in the NBA Finals — barely.

James had another finals career high with 32 points, Wade rebounded from a poor opener to add 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, tying 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.

"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.

"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."

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 Oklahoma City 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 Oklahoma City, which had overcome a 13-point deficit in Game 1.

James had 30 points in the opener, but afterward said Wade needed to be Wade — All-Star, Olympic gold medalist and Finals MVP.

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.

Durant said only that he missed the shot, saying he would have to watch the tape to see if he was fouled.

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.

Miami blew a fourth-quarter lead in Game 2 last year, and doing it again would have meant making them overcome a 2-0 deficit, which they did in 2006.

Durant nailed a 3-pointer and drove into the lane to throw down a dunk over Battier that cut it to 82-74 with 8:22 remaining. His 3-pointer from the wing trimmed it to 90-86.



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