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Tuesday, June 19, 2012
LeBron powers Heat to victory in Game 3
MIAMI — It's there every day for LeBron James and the Heat — the sting of last year's NBA Finals loss.
Two more wins and it will be a distant memory.
James had 29 points and 14 rebounds, and the Miami Heat took a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals with a 91-85 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night. Dwyane Wade had 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Heat, who were in this same position through three games last year, then didn't win again against the Dallas Mavericks.
"We carry that pain with us," the Heat's Chris Bosh said. "We think about it every day and that really helps us to succeed in this series."
James' poor performance was part of the problem then, but he seems on top of his game this time. His 3-pointer sent Miami to the fourth quarter with the lead, and he scored five straight points when the Heat were building just enough cushion to hold off another late flurry by the Thunder.
"Just trying to make plays," James said. "I told you guys, last year I didn't make enough game-changing plays, and that's what I kind of pride myself on. I didn't do that last year in the Finals. I'm just trying to make game-changing plays, and whatever it takes for our team to win, just trying to step up in key moments and be there for my teammates."
Kevin Durant had 25 points for the Thunder, but picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter and had to go to the bench when they seemed to have control of the game.
"It was frustrating," Durant said. "Of course we had a good lead and they came back and made some shots. We fouled shooters on the 3-point line twice. It's a tough break for us, man. You know, I hate sitting on the bench, especially with fouls."
The Heat survived their own fourth-quarter sloppiness — nine turnovers — by getting enough big plays from their Big Three.
James scored 30 and 32 points in the first two games, his two best finals performances. He fell just shy of another 30-point effort but reached 20 points for the 20th time this postseason, two shy of Wade's franchise record set in 2006.
Gone is the player who seemed so tentative down the stretch last year in his second Finals failure. He's constantly on the attack now, all while defending Durant in key situations.
"He was great. He's been great for us all playoffs," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said of James. "I don't know if he looks up at the clock or score sheet, but he knows when we need him to make big plays and come through for us, and he comes through."
Bosh had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat, who can win a second title by winning the next two games at home. That's what they did in 2006, one of just two home teams to sweep the middle three games in the 2-3-2 format.
"Last year I don't know if we were experienced enough as a unit to deal with what came at us," Wade said. "I just feel like we understand the situations more and we can deal with it better."