The Oklahoma City Thunder have had some remarkable come-from-behind wins this postseason. But the Miami Heat withstood a few late Thunder bursts and came through in the clutch to win 100-96 and tie the series at one game apiece going back to Miami for three games.
Miami lead wire-to-wire, but the Thunder closed it to 94-91 with 1:47 left to play. Then, LeBron James made a big bank shot over Thabo Sefolosha to put Miami up five. On the Heat's ensuing possession, each member of the Big Three contributed to deliver a huge basket. James set a screen for Dwyane Wade, who drove into the lane and found Chris Bosh for an open dunk.
It took Kevin Durant all of three seconds to drive baseline on James to get a bucket. In an unfortunate turn of events, Wade turned the ball over trying to avoid an eight-second violation. Durant made a pull-up 3 to pull Oklahoma City to within 98-96 with 38 seconds left. James attempted an ill-advised 3-pointer, but later prevented Durant from tying the game (James did hit Durant, but the referees chose not to impact the game) and made two huge free throws to ice the game.
A team without home-court advantage always seeks to get a split on the road, and Miami achieved that here. The Thunder hadn't lost a home playoff game until Thursday night, so the Heat should feel cautiously optimistic heading into Game 3.
James finished with 32 points on 10-of-22 shooting from the field and 12-of-12 shooting from the foul line, eight rebounds and five assists. He, not Shane Battier, was the primary defender on Durant. The three-time scoring champ played well in the fourth quarter, but the two best players on the planet each finished with 32. Additionally, Erik Spoelstra gave James a few minutes of rest in each half, playing him for 42 minutes.
The 2006 NBA Finals MVP bounced back from a sub-par Game 1 to score 24 points on an efficient 10-of-20 shooting from the field, six rebounds, five assists and one block. Wade scored more than 10 points in the first half for the first time in nine games. He certainly made some mistakes late - like that costly turnover - but played with noticeably more energy, getting to the rim with force. He didn't settle for nearly as many jumpers and also forced Russell Westbrook into a 10-for-26 shooting night.
Battier made at least four 3s for the third consecutive game, chipping in a much-needed 17 points. One of Battier's 3s came during the fourth quarter in the midst of a Thunder run. Battier banked in the shot to momentarily quiet the crowd. The 11-year NBA veteran has shown what Pat Riley envisioned when he signed Mike Miller to join the Big Three.
Like Game 1, the Heat started the game with a run, going up 18-2 on the Thunder. But unlike Game 1, Miami didn't amass the lead with fool's gold. Instead of relying primarily on 3-pointers, Wade got into the lane for some baskets. James punished whoever guarded him - Durant or Thabo Sefolosha - in the post. Bosh started the game and had a double-double by halftime. On one particular play, he pump faked to get Serge Ibaka into the air before slamming the ball home. Bosh finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds in 40 minutes of playing time.
After using only six players more than 10 minutes in Game 1, Erik Spoelstra expanded his rotation a bit. James Jones was out with a migraine Tuesday, but came in during the first half. Norris Cole had his Finals debut in Game 2, making a nice transition layup and relieving Wade for a few minutes after he picked up his second foul in the first half. Cole also drew a big offensive foul in the fourth quarter.
Game 3 is Sunday at 8 p.m. in Miami.