The Miami Heat hold a two-games-to- one lead in the National Basketball Association Finals for the second year in a row after withstanding a late Oklahoma City Thunder rally for a 91-85 victory.
LeBron James scored 29 points and Dwyane Wade added 25 last night for the Heat, whose seven-point fourth-quarter lead was cut to one in the closing minutes at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. Oklahoma City missed its last three shots and the Heat sealed the victory from the free-throw line, where they made 31 of 35 attempts, including 25 of their last 27.
“It was good to see us execute down the stretch, but more importantly it was great to see that we were able to get stops,” James, who added 14 rebounds, said in a televised interview. “That’s where the game is won and we did that.”
Game 4 in the best-of-seven championship series is scheduled for tomorrow in Miami. The Heat also led 2-1 in last year’s NBA Finals before losing the next three games and the series to the Dallas Mavericks.
“It’s a tough loss,” Kevin Durant, who led the Thunder with 25 points last night, said at a news conference. “But it’s not over. You’ve got to be ready for the next game.”
Russell Westbrook, who had 19 points for Oklahoma City, missed a wide-open 3-point attempt with 29 seconds left that could have tied the score.
“We know they’re not broken,” James said. “And we look forward to the challenge in Game 4.”
The Heat, after splitting the first two games of the series in Oklahoma City, led 26-20 after one quarter last night and had a one-point lead at halftime. The Thunder trailed 49-46 early in the third quarter before a 14-2 run, with eight points from Durant, opened a 60-51 advantage.
After Durant picked up his fourth foul, Miami closed the third quarter with a 16-7 run to regain a two-point lead, 69-67.
“They made us stagnant and they came out in the third quarter and attacked us and we didn’t attack back,” James said at a news conference. “We did that in the last three or four minutes of the third quarter.”
The Thunder went back in front, 77-76, with 7:31 left in the final quarter before Miami scored eight straight points to take the lead for good. Oklahoma City pulled within one point with 1:30 left on a 17-foot jump shot by Westbrook.
James, Wade and Chris Bosh, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds, each made free throws in the final 1:19. The trio scored Miami’s last 15 points.
“We were able to make enough plays,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said at a news conference. “It wasn’t pretty all the way through, but here in Miami we like these wins because they’re gritty and they speak a lot to the team’s character.”
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