The Miami Heat have been here before. . . just last year. They had two victories in the NBA Finals, but the Dallas Mavericks ran off four straight wins to send LeBron James and Co. into a long, disappointing summer.
After leading the Heat to a 91-85 Game 3 victory in Miami Sunday for a 2-1 series lead over Oklahoma City, James said it is different this year.
”It’s all about chemistry,” James said. ”Last year I didn’t make enough game-changing plays in the Finals. I’m just trying to make game-changing plays.”
James had 29 points and 14 rebounds and Dwyane Wade 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists to lead the Heat, who host Game 4 Tuesday. It is a must-win game for the Thunder, whose late-game execution Sunday was awful. Kevin Durant scored 25 points, but he had to be benched late in the third quarter, when OKC had built a 10-point lead.
With Durant sitting, Miami mounted a run, retook the lead and used strong defense to thwart a Thunder comeback. Still, it took two late turnovers and a missed Russell Westbrook open three-pointer that would have tied the game.
James’ poor performance was part of the problem in last year’s NBA Finals, 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.
“We carry that pain with us (from last year),” the Heat’s Chris Bosh said. “We think about it every day and that really helps us to succeed in this series.”
“I just feel like we’re a more experienced team,” Wade said. “I’m not saying we want it more. But we understand the situation better.”