OKLAHOMA CITY – Just like they have throughout their dominating playoff run, the Oklahoma City Thunder made another relentless, furious push late in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. This time, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade put a stop to it.
Kevin Durant missed a short baseline pull-up jumper over LeBron James and James followed with two free throws as the Miami Heat escaped with a 100-96 victory. The Miami Heat now return home with the Finals even at a game apiece.
"It meant everything," James said of Thursday's victory. "We had played too well in the first 36 minutes for this to slip away from us."
The Thunder had reason to cry foul after the game. James appeared to have his arm hooked under Durant on Durant's shot in the closing seconds. There also was an apparent blown goal-tending call early in the game that loomed large in the final moments.
Durant refused to take a swipe at the officiating on his last-second miss, fiercely telling a reporter, "I missed the shot, man," in a postgame interview.
James led the Heat with 32 points while Wade shook off his Game 1 struggles to finish with 24.
Durant scored 32 points as the Thunder nearly pulled off another remarkable comeback. Miami controlled much of the game before Durant and Russell Westbrook led the fourth-quarter charge.
The Heat bent but appeared to have the game won after James buried a clutch bank shot with a little more than a minute left and Chris Bosh followed with a dunk. Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha, however, deflected a pass that led to a 3-pointer by Durant to bring the Thunder with two with 37.8 seconds left. After James missed his own 3-pointer, Durant had a chance to send the game into overtime.
Durant lofted the short shot on the baseline, but James had his arm wrapped under Durant's right arm. The Thunder complained about the non-call after James corralled the rebound.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, as expected, made two key tactical adjustments for Game 2: He started Bosh for the first time since Bosh's return from an abdominal injury; and he let James open the game guarding Durant.
Bosh had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the first half while Durant walked into halftime with six points and two fouls. For most of the night, the Heat looked like the team that ran roughshod over their Eastern Conference playoff opponents before Bosh's injury.
''It's been so long since we've had [the Heat's Big Three] all together,'' said Shane Battier, who had another terrific outing with 17 points. ''They played like the All-Stars that they are and that's the effort that we need.''
The Thunder admitted they were in awe of the bright lights of the Finals during the first half of Game 1. They also vowed that would not be a problem going forward in the series. And yet the Thunder again found themselves in a big hole, trailing 18-2 a little more than midway through the first quarter. For the second straight game, Shane Battier opened with a flurry, hitting a couple of early 3-pointers and three total in the first half.
''That was the game. We can't start off down 18-2,'' Durant said.
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Spoelstra also promised to lengthen his rotation after primarily playing just six players in Game 1. With Bosh starting, Udonis Haslem came off the bench. James Jones, who wasn't available in Game 1 because of migraines, and rookie guard Norris Cole both received minutes in the first half.
Thunder reserve guard James Harden, limited to five points in Game 1, was OKC's only dependable scorer in the first half. He had 17 points at halftime while Westbrook (2-of-10) and Durant (3-of-9) both struggled with their shots.
Unlike Game 1, the Thunder never made a significant push at the Heat before halftime. They shot just 34.1 percent in the first half and for all their athleticism and speed didn't have a single fast-break point.
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