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LeBron James had 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds as the Miami Heat moved within one win of claiming the National Basketball Association championship with a 104-98 defeat of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
James sat out the final minute at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami last night with cramps, coach Erik Spoelstra said. James hit a 3-pointer with just under three minutes remaining, shortly after his leg problem arose, to break a 94-94 tie. The Heat never trailed again.
“At the end of the game, he was playing with an incredible intensity level,” Spoelstra said in a news conference. “At that point he was just trying to will his body and make something happen. That three was just sheer competitiveness.”
Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers each scored 25 points for the Heat, who lead the best-of-seven Finals three games to one and can clinch their first NBA title since 2006 with a Game 5 win at home tomorrow. Should the Thunder win, the series will return to Oklahoma City for Games 6 and 7, if needed. No team has won the title after trailing 3-1 in the Finals.
Chalmers, who was held to 13 points in the first three quarters, scored 12 of the Heat’s 25 fourth-quarter points.
“Coach said he believed in Mario Chalmers and he was due for a big game,” Wade said.
Russell Westbrook scored 43 points and Kevin Durant had 28 for the Thunder.
“Russell was terrific,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks told reporters. “The guy played relentless, he was terrific, he kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win.”
Miami overcame a 17-point first-quarter deficit, going on a 16-0 run that started in the closing seconds of the opening period. Westbrook had 18 points in the first half, while James had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds in the half.
“We can’t start out like we did today,” Wade said about Game 5. “We have to come out focused with a lot of energy and play that game like it’s our last.”
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