Lebron James scored 32 points, including 2 clutch free throws in the last 10 seconds, and the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night, 100-96. The Heat were able to hold off a furious rally by the Thunder in the fourth quarter, where they were able to cut the lead to only 2 points, but Kevin Durant missed a makable baseline jumper that would have tied the game with 10 seconds remaining. This was a huge win for Miami because it prevents them from being in a 2-0 hole going back home and this was the first time in these playoffs or in the finals ever for Lebron where he has been clutch in the fourth quarter. Although he maybe did not match Kevin Durant’s 17-point 4th quarter performance in Game 1, James did make a big bank jump shot in the last 2 minutes, and his 2 free throws with 7 seconds to go clinched the victory for Miami. Overall in this game, his stats were very good. He finished with 32 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and most impressively, 12-12 from the free throw line.
I will talk about Miami first, followed by Oklahoma City. The reason that the Heat won this game was not because of Lebron. It was because Lebron’s teammates showed up tonight and gave him help. They were led by Dwyane Wade, who had 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. This was a much-needed performance for Wade, who had a quiet Game 1. Whenever the Thunder seemed to start to make a run, Wade made a difficult jump shot to quiet the crowd. Also, Wade was a big part of the Heat’s hot start to this game. At one point in the first quarter they had an 18-2 lead. Chris Bosh also made an impact in his first start since Game 1 of the Indiana series. He finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds, and 8 of those were offensive. Despite these good numbers, Bosh missed too many layups, and he could have easily scored over 20 points. Throughout the playoffs when the Heat win, they usually get one role player to step up. Tonight, that role player was Shane Battier, who had a great game, and one can argue that he was as big a part of this win as any of the Big 3. Battier scored 17 points, made 5 huge 3’s, and played excellent defense while taking multiple charges while guarding Kevin Durant. One 3 in particular was a killer. In a 4-point game late in the fourth quarter, Battier knocked down a very lucky banked-in 3 with the shot clock running out. This was a turning point in the game for sure. This was the Shane Battier that the Heat were hoping to get when they signed him last offseason.
Despite this loss, Oklahoma City did play well after a very slow start in the first quarter. Their Big 3 did most of the damage on offense, scoring 80 of the team’s 96 points. Durant was the leading scorer with 32. However, he was in foul trouble for most of this game, and this definitely limited him on defense. He again came up clutch in the fourth quarter and led Oklahoma City back into this game to make it very close until the end. He missed a short jumper that he would usually make that would have tied the game with 10 seconds remaining. Still, Durant had a good game, especially because he had to be so careful on defense not to pick up his 6th foul. Despite Russell Westbrook’s very good stat line, I was not impressed with him tonight. He scored 27 points while dishing out 7 assists and grabbing 8 rebounds. This looks very good, but Westbrook was the cause of the slow start for OKC. He missed easy layups in the first half and took ill-advised shots as well. The first half at least was definitely a West-“brick” half. He needs to take smarter shots and pass the ball if he is not open. Expect to see adjustments made by coach Scott Brooks in Game 3. After scoring only 5 points in Game 1, James Harden was great tonight. He ignited the Thunder off the bench after their very slow start and finished the game with 21 points on 7-11 shooting. He was able to get to the basket at will and also got to the line 7 times. He definitely showed up tonight. Defensively, the Thunder were led by Serge Ibaka, who recorded 5 blocks, though it seemed like more.
Though the result of this game does surprise me, I am not shocked by it and I knew Miami was capable of winning in Oklahoma City (though I did not think that they would win this game). Now, Miami can return home and never come back to OKC if they can win all 3 games in Florida. I don’t think that’s gonna happen, and I expect the good people of Oklahoma will get to see at least one more game this year. However, I do think Miami will win Game 3 at home to take a 2-1 series lead. The score will be Miami 97, Oklahoma City 90.