8:00 PM ET, April 4, 2012
AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL
MIAMI -- LeBron James twisted his ankle falling over a videographer, got smacked in the back by a referee, took what he thought was excessive contact twice while attempting dunks and dealt with more pain from his injured left ring finger.
All worth it by night's end.
James had 34 points and 10 assists, Dwyane Wade scored 19 points, and the Miami Heat rallied to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 98-93 on Wednesday night to extend the NBA's longest home winning streak this season to 17 games.
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The Heat were down 11 in the second quarter before getting a boost from two hard Oklahoma City fouls, the second being Russell Westbrook pulling James down from behind on a fast break.
And if this was a one-on-one battle for the NBA MVP, advantage James. Kevin Durant scored 30 points for the Thunder but had a career-high nine turnovers.
"You take the personal challenge," James said.
Westbrook scored 28 points for Oklahoma City, but like Durant, he had his struggles, shooting 9-for-26. James Harden had 12 for the Thunder, who lost despite holding Miami to 37 percent shooting.
"We could have played a lot stronger," Durant said, "but you have to give credit to Miami."
Durant had two shots late that would have either given Oklahoma City the lead or pulled the Thunder into a tie. He backed James down with about 1:30 left and the Heat up by one, then tried a turnaround that caromed off the top of the backboard. Later, with it still a one-possession game out of a timeout, the Thunder went for the quick 3, but Durant's try to tie hit the front of the rim and went out of bounds.
Wade made a pair of foul shots, stretching the lead to five, and it was soon over.
"It was a physical game," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "I like that. I'm sure they like it. Neither team backed down."
Oklahoma City's win at home over Miami last week was largely one-sided. For a while, this one looked as if it would go the same way.
Westbrook's three-point play with 7:27 left in the second quarter gave Oklahoma City a 36-25 lead, and that sort of margin typically means a Thunder win -- they went into Wednesday 32-2 when they held a double-digit lead.
Then the game's complexion changed.
The first salvo came with 5:45 left in the half, when Perkins struck Wade in the head while trying to block a shot, and both got called for technical and personal fouls, much to the ire of both sides -- Brooks couldn't understand why Perkins merited both, while Heat coach Erik Spoelstra asked why contact to the head wasn't worth a flagrant foul.
The flagrant came 12 seconds later.
Wade stole the ball from Westbrook and flipped it ahead to James, who leaped for a dunk. Westbrook came from behind James, wrapping his left hand over the Heat star's left shoulder and using his right hand to grab him around the waist.
James fell to the court, and emotions started boiling over.
"A scary play. ... A dangerous play," James said.
Referees Bill Kennedy and Olandis Poole jumped into the fray, making sure players didn't go at each other.
Heat president Pat Riley got out of his seat three rows from the court and took a long look at the scene, while normally mild-mannered Miami assistant coach Bob McAdoo had some choice words for anyone who would listen. The end result was a flagrant-1 for Westbrook. James swished a jumper as time in the half expired, and Miami led 50-49.
It was one of the NBA's marquee games this season, and Jets quarterback Tim Tebow -- whom James raves about -- was among those watching.
"Don't know who's gonna win," Tebow tweeted in the third quarter, "but KingJames isn't playing around."
Neither were the Thunder.
As soon as the Heat went up by nine late in the third, their biggest lead to that point, the Thunder came back with a 10-0 run to reclaim the lead. Durant started the burst with a 12-footer with 3 seconds left in the quarter, then Oklahoma City scored the first eight of the fourth to go back on top 81-80.
By that point, it was clear this one was going to the wire.
"Two very good teams," Wade said. "It was a playoff atmosphere here tonight. Good game, great for the fans and great competition."
The Heat believe there's a perception around the league that they're a "soft" team, one that can be beaten when opponents take it to them physically.
Winning a game such as this -- with James getting pulled down, Bosh sporting a fat upper lip after needing a stitch, Wade getting hit in the face at one point as well -- might change that, Spoelstra said.
"Our truth," Spoelstra said. "That's what tonight was about, and that's what really every day is about for our group. ... We know what we're capable of."
Word that Wade would play -- he missed Tuesday's game against Philadelphia with a bruised left knee -- came down about 45 minutes before tipoff. ... NFL stars Julius Peppers and Jeremy Shockey were part of the sold-out crowd, as was actor Michael Douglas for the second straight night. ... About 57,000 people went to a pair of sold-out sports events three miles apart in Miami on Wednesday night, with Heat-Thunder going on not far from the first official baseball game in the history of Marlins Park. ... Thunder guard Derek Fisher and Heat guard James Jones -- both NBPA officers who spent much of the offseason dealing with the lockout -- exchanged greetings at halftime.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||35-81 (.432)||31-83 (.373)|
|3PM-3PA||5-17 (.294)||10-24 (.417)|
|FTM-FTA||18-20 (.900)||26-29 (.897)|
|Fast Break Points||16||11|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||25 (1/1)||19 (0/0)|
Next 5 Games
The Thunder were 16-31 (51.6 percent) on shots inside 5 feet Wednesday, their fifth-lowest shooting percentage from that distance this season. Entering the game Oklahoma City was shooting 63.5 percent inside 5 feet, which led the NBA. In the 4th quarter the Thunder were 4-10 inside 5 feet and all six missed shots were layups. Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.
LeBron James scored a game-high 34 points Wednesday against the Thunder and created an additional 24 points off of his assists. James accounted for 59.2 percent of the Heat's points (58 of 98), his highest percentage in any game this season.[+]
Highest Pct of Points Accounted For
LeBron James shot 50 percent on Wednesday, while his teammates combined to shoot 33 percent from the field. James had 10 of Miami's 16 assists in the win against the Thunder.[+]
Heat, Wednesday vs Thunder
Not only did the Heat beat the West-leading Thunder but they also extended their home win streak. Miami has won 17 straight home games, the 2nd-longest home win streak in franchise history. The Grizzlies are all that stand between the Heat and matching the record.[+]
Longest Home Win Streak
ESPN Stats & Information