MIAMI, Fla. — It’s come down to this.
If the Oklahoma City Thunder loses Thursday night to the Miami Heat, their special season will be over, and the Heat will have a “world champion” parade through the streets of this south Florida town.
That’s because Miami fought off a furious Thunder start to hold on for a tough 104-98 win over OKC to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven game NBA Finals.
However, it was anything but easy for the home team.
The Thunder played their best basketball of the entire series, starting off by draining 6 of their first 7 shots and eventually earning a 17-point lead 33-16 in the opening quarter.
But the Heat didn’t even flinch, reeling off a 16-0 run into the early second period to get right back in it.
The Thunder led 49-46 at halftime, and Miami had been knocked down but got up off the canvas.
The Heat is much more than just LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
We didn’t believe it until we saw it clearly Tuesday night.
Former Kansas star Mario Chalmers, who was a dismal 2-15 shooting combined in games #2 and #3, returned to his days in Lawrence with a crucial 25 point scoring night.
Rookie Norris Cole was valuable in that first quarter rally with 8 big points in a 7 minute span.
James Jones came off the bench and hit a big shot or two.
And when it was over.
The league’s MVP James was a rebound away from a triple-double (26 points, 12 assists and 9 boards), DWade tossed in 25 points and Bosh added 13 points and 9 rebounds.
But Chalmers came up with the biggest plays at the end.
He scored 5 of his points in the final: 44.6 seconds when a Westbrook jumper cut Miami’s lead to 99-96 and Thabo Sefolosha missed a wide-open try for “3” from the corner which would’ve tied it.
Chalmers then hit a driving lay-up and after James Harden tied up Udonis Haslem with :17.3 to go, Harden appeared to win the jump ball, tapping it to Kevin Durant.
But Shane Battier of the Heat got in-between KD and knocked it to Chalmers who was then fouled by Westbrook.
He calmly sank 2 free throws for a 5-point lead, and that was it.
Westbrook’s 20 field goals were the most by any player in a Finals game since Shaquille O’Neal tossed in 20 buckets in a game in 2000.
Russell’s 43 points were 2 shy of the all-time Seattle/OKC franchise record in the playoffs (Ray Allen had 45 in a post-season game against Sacramento in 2005).
Durant was dogged by the Miami defense all night long but he still managed 28 points but grabbed just 2 rebounds.
And Harden’s miserable series continued.
The NBA’s “Sixth Man Of The Year” finished 2-10 shooting for the second straight game and he turned it over 4 times on a night when every miss counted.
The Thunder MUST win three games in-a-row to win the NBA Title starting with Thursday’s night’s game #5 also in Miami.
The Heat are a single victory away from the franchise’s first World Championship since 2006.