OKLAHOMA CITY // LeBron James asked for help, and his Miami teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh provided it as the Heat beat Oklahoma City Thunder 100-96 last night, squaring the NBA finals series at 1-1.
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 thanks to their three All-Stars.
Bosh had 16 points and 15 rebounds in his return to the starting line-up for the Heat, who ended a four-game finals losing streak dating back to last season.
"It's been so long since we've had them all together," said Shane Battier, the Heat forward. "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 do not 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 offence 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 that would have tied a game in which Oklahoma City trailed throughout. 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 hosts could not 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 post-season 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 was not sharp in the last round amid speculation of some physical problem. He was all but asked on Wednesday if his explosiveness was a thing of the past, what must have been insulting to a player who, though 30, still believes he is 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 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 line-up, 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 play-off 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.
"The clock is going really fast, but I tried to slow it down in my mind and get a good shot," James said of the play. "I had a couple turnovers in the fourth quarter that I didn't like because I wasn't aggressive enough. I was glad I was able to make a good bucket and some free throws down the stretch."
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