Two thousand twelve was a hell of a year for a Miami Heat fan. While it didn't feature the torrent of media speculation that accompanied the team's 2010-12 season, we certainly saw media members predicting the Heat's demise during series against the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics. Nonetheless, Miami won its second championship in franchise history in 2012, and the Heat is off to another great start this season.
I've cobbled together a list of the top 10 Miami Heat moments in 2012. This post is the second part of this series. Click here for the tenth through fifth biggest moments. This is the Internet, so hate it, love it, discuss it or create your own list. I look forward to spending another year covering the Heat in 2013. I hope you'll join us all at Hot Hot Hoops.
5. LeBron returns from cramps to put Heat up 3-1 in Finals
Aside from the clincher, this game is the only Finals meeting to make the list. After starting the first three Finals games lackadaisically, Oklahoma City quickly built a 33-16 lead with seconds remaining in the first period. Norris Cole, sporting a flat top for the first time all season, then knocked down two 3s. James Jones and even Dwyane Wade made 3s, and the Heat tied the game at 35 just four minutes into the second quarter.
The game remained close, but LeBron James suffered from leg cramps and left the game with five minutes left. Miami was up 92-90 then, but Kevin Durant scored four straight points with James on the bench. The three-time MVP clearlywas not feeling good, but hopped to the scorer's table just a minute of game time after getting carried off the court. Limping as he played, James made a clutch 3 to put Miami up 97-94 with fewer than three minutes left. He couldn't play the final 55 seconds, but Mario Chalmers made a driving layup over Serge Ibaka to put the Heat up five. Russell Westbrook then cut the lead to three, but made a costly mistake when he fouled Chalmers after a jump-ball. Chalmers made both free throws, and Miami had a 3-1 lead in the Finals. Dwyane Wade was happy about it.
4. Heat eliminate Celtics, advance to NBA Finals
Some will ask why Game 4 of the NBA Finals isn't a bigger moment than Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. I thought about it, but Miami's season wasn't on the line when LeBron James fell down with cramps. The Celtics actually played well out of the gate, with Brandon Bass contributing to an 11-point Boston lead with three minutes left in the first half. Dwyane Wade and James connected on an alley-oop to close the half with some momentum. This game was actually tied after three quarters, meaning that the winner of the fourth quarter would win the series.
Remember when the Heat started to pull away? It started with this dunk. Then Chris Bosh made his third 3 of the night. LeBron James made a deep 3 to put Miami up 7. Dwyane Wade made this and-one to stretch the lead to 11, and it was curtain time.
3. LeBron, D-Wade explode to tie series with Pacers 2-2
Remember when the Pacers had a 50-43 lead in this game? Indiana looked poised to go up 3-1 in this series, and Dwyane Wade had scored only five points after a historically bad performance in Game 3. But then James made a nice bounce-pass to Wade, who drove baseline and slammed the ball home. It was only Wade's third field goal of the game, but it was enough to get Wade going.
After the third quarter started, Wade suddenly looked like a different player. He got to the basket and dunked the ball. James soon got involved, but it wasn't the taking turns offense of the 2010-11 Heat. Two players who many predicted couldn't work together suddenly looked great setting each other up. The plays were truly amazing. But the Heat had only built a tenuous lead. Udonis Haslem, who had struggled with his shot all year long and had just gotten bloodied with an elbow to the head, made four jumpers in the final six minutes of the game. The last one came with 1:11 left and put the Heat up 98-91. The Heat had stolen home-court advantage back from the Pacers. James had 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists while Wade scored 22 of his 30 in the second half to go along with nine rebounds and six assists.
2. LeBron scores 45 to force Game 7 in conference finals
No words required.
1. Heat win second championship in franchise history
I considered putting Game 6 No. 1 on this list. But in the end, LeBron James and the Heat needed to win a championship. If Miami had lost to the Thunder -- what many predicted -- Game 6 wouldn't have mattered much.
The Heat won three straight close games to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. James started Game 5 with a driving dunk. Chris Bosh made Kendrick Perkins look like a statue. After Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier made some 3s, Mike Miller got in the act and nailed seven triples. Soon enough, the clock ran out. The Heat won the last game of the NBA season. For the Miami Heat fan, it was a fulfilling conclusion.