Once again, the Miami Heat nearly gave away a game in the final minute it seemed to have secured, hanging on for a 91-85 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday in Game 3 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
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MIAMI, Fla. — Nothing is going to come easy for the Heat in the NBA Finals.
Once again, the Heat nearly gave away a game in the final minute it seemed to have secured, hanging on for a 91-85 victory over Oklahoma City Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Heat, which led by seven points with 2:18 remaining, allowed the Thunder to pull to within one before reestablishing its defense and making five free throws to seal the win.
Miami takes a 2-1 lead and in the 2-3-2 format has an opportunity to wrap up the series at home with Games 4 and 5 at home Tuesday and Thursday.
“This is a microcosm of this whole series,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “This playoff run we’ve been on, we’ve been knocked to the canvas a bunch of times.”
The Heat appeared to have the game in hand when LeBron James made it 86-79. But like Game 2, Oklahoma City rallied.
Six consecutive Thunder points, aided by the Heat’s ninth turnover of the quarter, made the score 86-85 with 1:30 remaining.
But Miami made its free throws, two by Chris Bosh, one by James and two by Dwyane Wade and controlled the boards, to maintain the lead.
“Our whole run has been games like this — down the stretch, last three minutes, got to make plays,” Spoelstra said. “Right now, everybody is of the mind-set, whatever it takes.”
“Every game has been decided by four or five possessions,” said Shane Battier, who scored nine points on just two shots, both made threes. “We just want to be on the right side.”
James and Wade scored 13 of Miami’s final 15 points. They had help from Bosh in the scoring department early and on the boards late.
James finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds. Wade started the game with four early assists before looking for his shot. He finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, shooting 8-of-22.
Bosh had 10 points (on 3-of-12 shooting) and 11 rebounds as the Heat had 46 points in the paint, 30 in the first half.
“It really doesn’t matter how you shoot the ball, on defense we have to play solid, we have to give them one shot, we have to rebound,” Bosh said.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks and leading scorer Kevin Durant were satisfied with everything but the final minutes and the outcome.
“I thought we did some good things and gave ourselves a chance to win,” Brooks said. “That’s what you want to do in the fourth quarter.”
But then …
“They made plays down the stretch and we didn’t,” Brooks added.
Durant led the Thunder with 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting.
“We put ourselves in a position to win,” he said. “That’s what it’s about. Tough loss. This is not over.”
Durant was in foul trouble for the second consecutive game, sitting the final 5:41 of the third quarter after picking up his fourth.
“I’m just trying to play aggressive on both ends,” he said. “Unfortunately, I’m getting fouls called on me, but I’ve got to play through it. Two games in a row.”
Russell Westbrook added 19 points, and the only other Thunder player in double figures was Kendrick Perkins with 10.
The Thunder, which led the league in free-throw shooting during the regular season, was just 15-of-24 from the line.
James Harden gave the Thunder a 77-76 lead with 7:31 remaining before the Heat went on an 8-0 run with five points by James and three from Wade.
The Heat went nearly six minutes of the second half without a field goal, finally scoring on a Wade drive with 6:18 remaining.
The basket came during a 12-3 Thunder run that gave it a 64-54 lead on Derek Fisher’s four-point play, a three and a foul on Mario Chalmers.
Fisher’s basket came with Westbrook and Durant on the bench. Durant picked up two fouls in a five-minute span early in the half, his fourth coming with 5:41 remaining. Westbrook went out 40 seconds later, and both sat the rest of the quarter.
Brooks said he removed Westbrook because his point guard had a bad stretch.
“I had to calm him down,” he said. “I’ve done it before.”
The Heat hung around thanks to two inexplicable Thunder fouls on Heat three-point shooters that gave Miami six straight points. Serge Ibaka nailed Battier and 23 seconds later, Fisher hit James Jones.
“We gave them six points when we were up 10,” Brooks said.
Miami ended the quarter on a 15-3 run to take a 69-67 lead, the final three on a jumper by James.
“We’ve been there before, we’ve been in these situations where we’ve been down,” Spoelstra said. “When you’re playing this type of competition, there’s going to be situations where you are up and down.”
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