Heat overcome James injury to take 3-1 lead in Finals

Jun 19, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat point guard Mario Chalmers (15) drives to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Nick Collison (4) during the fourth quarter of game four in the 2012 NBA Finals at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE

LeBron James suffered a cramp at the worst possible time for the Miami Heat - the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City rallied from a six-point deficit and went up by two shortly after James got hurt. James later returned for only a brief stint, so the Heat needed to stave off the Thunder late without their best player. And Miami responded to secure a crucial Game 4 victory, 104-98, and go up 3-1 in the NBA Finals. No team has ever rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals.

After Oklahoma City went up 94-92, each member of the Big Three made a basket. Chris Bosh made a layup, James sank a huge 3 and Dwyane Wade made a driving layup. Miami had a 99-94 lead with 2:19 left, but Russell Westbrook answered with a layup of his own to bring the Thunder to within three points. The Heat called a timeout, and James had to sit the rest of the way.

Mario Chalmers made a huge layup after a Wade/Bosh pick-and-roll play broke down. Wade made a huge block on a Thabo Sefolosha 3-point attempt in the corner, playing excellent help-and-recover defense. And on Miami's ensuing possession, the Thunder forced a jump-ball situation with 17 seconds on the game clock but only five seconds to shoot. Shane Battier made a heads-up play and tipped the ball to Chalmers. Westbrook apparently didn't know about the shot clock, and immediately fouled the former Kansas guard. The 2008 second-round pick knocked down three free throws to ice the game and put Miami within 48 minutes of winning a championship.

Chalmers finished with 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field and just one turnover. He struggled in Games 2 and 3 and even got off to slow start Tuesday night, but made 3-point shots and attacked the basket for layups. Wade added 25 points on 8-of-19 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks. James nearly registered a triple-double, scoring 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field, 12 assists and nine rebounds. Bosh chipped in 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting and nine boards, four of which were offensive.

Reminiscent of Rajon Rondo's Game 2 performance in the Eastern Conference Finals, Westbrook put up a spectacular game in a losing effort. He shot a remarkable 20-of-32 from the field to score 43 points and grabbed seven boards. But the Thunder relied too heavily on one man throughout the fourth quarter, as Durant again didn't come through in the clutch. James Harden missed open jumpers en route to a 2-for-10 shooting night, even getting tentative on an open 15-footer that he missed in the final two minutes.

The Thunder dominated the start of the game for the first time in this series, jumping out to a lead that crested at 17 in the closing moments of the first quarter. Westbrook converted on several pull-up jumpers, and Oklahoma City exploited a few Heat turnovers. Nick Collison even played well against the Heat, driving on Chris Bosh and making a layup on one possession.

Miami stormed back into the game from then on. LeBron James found Norris Cole for two 3s and James Jones and Mario Chalmers for two more triples. It took the Thunder until the 8:19 mark to score in the second quarter, and the Heat had already closed the deficit to one by then.

The Heat will try to win their second championship in franchise history Thursday night.


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