Lebron James got the help he needed, and the Miami Heat held on to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-96 on Thursday night to even up the NBA Finals. James finished the game with 32 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists to pace the Heat. Dwayne Wade bounced back from a lackluster game 1 to finish with 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. The Finals now head to Miami for the next three games. The Heat can win the title without having to play another road game if they sweep the three games at home.
Miami got off to a fantastic start, and led 18-2 at one point in the first quarter. OKC couldn’t buy a bucket in the early going, and the Heat were ultra aggressive. Wade’s energy level was noticeably higher than in game 1. The Heat were getting into the passing lanes and contesting nearly every shot. Shane Battier helped pad the early led with a few early threes, continuing his hot shooting from the past few games.
Chris Bosh returned to the starting lineup, and had his best game since returning from injury. Bosh scored 16 points and grabbed 15 big rebounds. If Miami is to remain competitive in this series, they will need more big play out of the third member of the big three.
Throughout the game, the Thunder continued to chip away at the lead. Every time they got close, Miami would push them back down. OKC finally got within striking distance in the fourth quarter. With less than 20 seconds left, the Thunder were down two with the ball. Kevin Durant got the ball along the baseline, and attempted a fade away jumper against Lebron James. There was a lot of contact, and he missed the shot. Though he was pleading with the officials after the fact, no call was made, and Miami got the rebound. James sunk to clutch free throws and the game was essentially over.
Durant finished with 32 points on 12-22 shooting. He launched 10 three pointers, of which he made 4. Russell Westbrook had 27 points on 10-26 shooting. He also had 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Some of Westbrook’s ill-advised shots really hurt the Thunder, particularly his numerous pull up jumpers. To often he would dribble the ball up the court and take a pull up jumper early in the shot clock. These possessions disrupted the Thunder’s rhythm.
James Harden bounced back from a quiet game to score 21 points in game 2. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year showed deadly accuracy, going 7-11 from the floor. His 21 points represented the majority of the 23 OKC’s bench scored. Derek Fisher netted the other two points.
Game 3 is Sunday night in Miami. OKC has to come out of the gate stronger, as falling behind is not a recipe for success against Miami. The Heat are a great front running team. The led game 2 wire to wire. OKC can not hope to keep coming from behind as they did in game 1. The Heat have to replicate the effort the put forth in game 2. They played at nearly the top of their game, and it took every bit of their effort. Miami can not afford anymore off games from any member of the big three. If they relent for even a stretch of one game, the Thunder will pounce.
A lot of basketball analysts say that a series doesn’t truly begin until a team wins on the road. We have now met that criteria in this year’s Finals. The Thunder lost their first home game of these playoffs. How they respond in game 3 will go a long way in showing what kind of team they are.