Miami wins series 4-1
|Game 1: Tuesday, June 12th|
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|Game 2: Thursday, June 14th|
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|Game 3: Sunday, June 17th|
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|Game 4: Tuesday, June 19th|
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|Game 5: Thursday, June 21st|
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8:00 PM ET, June 17, 2012
AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL
LeBron James leads way with 29 points, 14 boards as Heat go up 2-1
MIAMI -- It's there every day for LeBron James and the Heat -- the sting of last year's NBA Finals loss.
Two more wins and it will be a distant memory.
James had 29 points and 14 rebounds, and the Miami Heat took a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals with a 91-85 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night. Dwyane Wade had 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Heat, who were in this same position through three games last year, then didn't win again against the Dallas Mavericks.
More NBA Finals Coverage
The Miami Heat did quite a bit wrong, but their energy helped deliver a 2-1 series lead, writes Brian Windhorst. Dime
After making strides in previous rounds, poor late execution sealed the Thunder's loss to the Heat on Sunday, writes J.A. Adande. Story
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• Radio: Jalen Rose | Bruce Bowen
• Series page | Grades | Heat Index
"We carry that pain with us," the Heat's Chris Bosh said. "We think about it every day and that really helps us to succeed in this series."
James' poor performance was part of the problem then, but he seems on top of his game this time. His 3-pointer sent the Heat to the fourth quarter with the lead, and he scored five straight Miami points when the Heat were building just enough cushion to hold off another late flurry by the Thunder.
"Just trying to make plays," James said. "I told you guys, last year I didn't make enough game-changing plays, and that's what I kind of pride myself on. I didn't do that last year in the Finals. I'm just trying to make game-changing plays, and whatever it takes for our team to win, just trying to step up in key moments and be there for my teammates."
Game 4 is Tuesday night.
Kevin Durant had 25 points for the Thunder, but picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter and had to go to the bench when they had seemed to have control of the game.
"It was frustrating," Durant said. "Of course we had a good lead and they came back and made some shots. We fouled shooters on the 3-point line twice. It's a tough break for us, man. You know, I hate sitting on the bench, especially with fouls."
The Heat survived their own fourth-quarter sloppiness -- nine turnovers -- by getting enough big plays from their Big Three.
James scored 30 and 32 points in the first two games, his two best Finals performances. He fell just shy of another 30-point effort but reached 20 points for the 20th time this postseason, two shy of Wade's franchise record set in 2006.
A Fine Line
With his performance Sunday, LeBron James became just the fifth player in the last 10 seasons with at least 29 points and 14 rebounds in an NBA Finals game. Here's a look at that list:
Gone is the player who seemed so tentative down the stretch last year in his second Finals failure. He's constantly on the attack now, all while defending Durant in key situations.
"He was great. He's been great for us all playoffs," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said. "I don't know if he looks up at the clock or score sheet, but he knows when we need him to make big plays and come through for us, and he comes through."
Bosh had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat, who can win a second title by winning the next two games at home. That's what they did in 2006, one of just two home teams to sweep the middle three games in the 2-3-2 format.
They seemed out of it when Oklahoma City opened a 10-point lead midway through the third. But then Durant picked up his fourth foul with 5:41 left on Wade's baseline drive, though there appeared to be little or no contact. Thunder coach Scott Brooks decided to sit Russell Westbrook with him, and the Heat charged into the lead by the end of the period.
Westbrook looked angry going to the bench, but denied any frustration afterward.
"Nah, man. I mean, coach's decision," Westbrook said. "Got to live with it."
The Thunder grabbed their last lead at 77-76 on James Harden's basket with 7:32 left. James answered with two free throws about 20 seconds later, and the teams would trade turnovers and stops over the next couple of tense minutes.
Wade then converted a three-point play, and another minute went by before James powered to the basket, Durant trying to get in position to draw a charge but watching helplessly as he picked up his fifth foul. James made the free throw for an 84-77 advantage with 3:47 to play.
After another basket by James, the Thunder had one last burst -- haven't they always in this series? -- ripping off six straight points to get within one before Bosh made a pair of free throws with 1:19 to play. Durant missed badly on a wild shot attempt, and the Thunder missed another chance when Westbrook was off from behind the arc. James hit a free throw for a four-point lead with 16 seconds to go and Wade added two to close it out.
"Last year I don't know if we was experienced enough as a unit to deal with what came at us," Wade said. "I just feel like we understand the situations more and we can deal with it better."
The Thunder were just 4 of 18 on 3-pointers and hit only 15 of 24 free throws, unusually awful numbers for one of the league's best offensive teams. Harden, the Sixth Man of the Year, shot 2 of 10 for his nine points. Westbrook finished with 19 points.
After a split of the first two games, the series made its way from Oklahoma City, where fans in blue shirts filled every seat, to Miami, where white shirts hung on empty chairs just minutes before the tip. The late arrivals in Oklahoma City had been the Thunder players, who fell into big early deficits and acknowledged some first-time Finals jitters in Game 1. Brooks said he heard the cries to change his starting lineup but said it never crossed his mind.
The Thunder quickly fell behind 10-4 in this one after spotting the Heat a 13-point lead in Game 1 and getting clubbed into an 18-2 hole in the opening minutes of Game 2. They didn't let things get any worse this time, playing the Heat even from there and trailing 26-20 after one. James, Wade and Bosh combined for Miami's first 18 points.
James and Wade had some dazzling drives in the second and Shane Battier got free for a pair of 3-pointers in the final 2 minutes, but the Thunder stayed with them the entire way, briefly holding a three-point lead. Westbrook's 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds left cut Miami's lead to 47-46.
Oklahoma City started to take control with a 14-2 run early in the third. Durant had the first four points, Westbrook fooled the Heat with a fake behind the back pass before in for a layup, then Durant leaped over James for a follow dunk before nailing a jumper for a 60-51 lead with 6:55 left in the period.
But it was barely a minute later when he drew his fourth foul. The Thunder pushed the lead to 10 on Derek Fisher's four-point play, but the Heat got right back in it when Battier and then Jones made all six free throws after being fouled behind the arc.
Brooks also pulled Westbrook with 5 minutes left and left him out the remainder of the period, leaving the Thunder without their two best players as they tried to hang onto the lead.
The Heat scored the final seven of the period, Wade making a turnaround jumper and two free throws before setting up James for a 3-pointer that made it 69-67 headed to the final quarter.
Game notesBattier had made at least four 3-pointers in three straight games. The last player to make four in four consecutive postseason games was Orlando's Dennis Scott in 1995. ... Brooks, joking Sunday morning about all the calls to change his lineup: "It's hard to take all the advice," he said. "I'm only allowed three bench assistant coaches."
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||33-77 (.429)||28-74 (.378)|
|3PM-3PA||4-18 (.222)||4-13 (.308)|
|FTM-FTA||15-24 (.625)||31-35 (.886)|
|Fast Break Points||12||19|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||25 (1/0)||19 (0/0)|
The James-Wade duo outperformed the Durant-Westbrook duo in the 2nd half - thanks especially to the fact that Durant and Westbrook were stuck on the bench while James and Wade played 47 of a possible 48 minutes. Different Duos - 2nd Half of Game 3 Durant-Westbrook James-Wade Minutes 38 47<< Points 18 27 FT 2-4 12-14 Rebounds 7 9 >>Of a possible 48 minutes
In the 3rd quarter, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant spent the final 5:01 of the quarter on the bench together. The Thunder led 60-54 when Westbrook joined Durant on the bench. When they returned at the start of the 4th quarter, the Heat led 69-67. But they played the whole 4th quarter together and were outscored by 4. Thunder in 2nd Half of Game 3 Durant+Westbrook Margin Start-5:41 3rd On court +7 5:01 3rd-End 3rd Off court -8 4th quarter On court -4 NOTE: The small gap between 5:41 3rd and 5:01 3rd is when Durant was on the bench and Westbrook was on the floor. No points were scored by either team in that span.
James Harden had that big 1st half in Game 2, but has been quiet the rest of the series. James Harden in 2012 NBA Finals 1st Half Game 2 Rest of Series Minutes 18 73 Points 17 18 3-pt FG 2-3 1-6 FT 5-5 5-9
The Heat shot 17.7 percent (6-of-34) from 10 feet and beyond in Game 3 against the Thunder. That's the worst field goal percentage from such distances for the Heat in a game since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the team. The Heat's previous low was 24.0 percent (12-of-50), done in a Game 5 loss to the Celtics this postseason. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to go 3-of-22 (13.6 percent) from 10-plus feet in Game 3. Statistical support for this story from NBA.com
The Heat attacked the basket early, going 10-of-12 from inside 5 feet in the first quarter, just two fewer makes than the Thunder had all game (12-of-26) from that same distance. The Heat made only five shots from inside 5 feet in the second half, with four coming in the fourth quarter.[+]
Heat Shooting Inside 5 Feet - NBA Finals Game 3
LeBron James was the primary defender on Kevin Durant in Game 3 after Shane Battier filled the role the first two games. James struggled to contain Durant in the first three quarters, but held him to 1-of-5 shooting in the fourth. Shane Battier guarded Durant on just one shot attempt (0-1) in Game 3. In the first two games of the series, Battier guarded Durant on 17 field goal attempts, the most by any Heat defender. However, Durant was 11-of-17 against Battier, scoring 30 points (including free throws).[+]
ESPN Stats & Information