OKLAHOMA CITY — With Oklahoma City chipping away at Miami’s lead, the Thunder finally had the ball with the chance to even the score or take the lead.
But with the game down to the final seconds, the Heat put up one last defensive stand, forcing Kevin Durant into an errant bank shot and held on for a 100-96 victory Thursday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena to even the NBA Finals at 1-1.
Behind LeBron James’ clutch 32 points, the Heat now has home-court advantage in the best-of-seven series, with the next three games shifting to Miami beginning Sunday.
The loss was the Thunder’s first at home in the post-season after nine consecutive wins.
“We’re confident going home, but our guys know that doesn’t guarantee anything and we’re going to have to earn this,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The Thunder, which never led, had one final chance to catch the Heat after a missed jumper by James. The Thunder inbounded with 12.3 seconds to play, but Durant missed his last shot of the game.
James rebounded and converted his two most important free throws since coming to Miami with 7.1 seconds to play. James made all 12 of his free throws in the win.
“I figured they were going to go to him,” said James, who was covering Durant. “He got a small step on me, I just wanted to keep a body on him and make him take a tough shot.”
Durant disputed James’ claim that the shot was contested.
“I was open and I missed the shot,” he said. “That’s a shot I shoot all the time. I just missed.”
Spoelstra said he expects more close games.
“This is going to be probably like this every single game,” he said.
The Heat not only had its most complete effort from the Big Three since before Chris Bosh’s abdominal injury, but also got another unexpected boost from Shane Battier.
Dwyane Wade added 24 points and Bosh, who started for the first time since returning from his injury, added 16 points and 15 rebounds.
“I just wanted to do my part and make sure I give some help on the boards,” Bosh said.
Battier, meanwhile, matched his Game 1 output of 17 points, shooting 6-of-8 including 5-of-7 on three- pointers.
Durant led the Thunder with 32 points, half of those in the fourth quarter. He had 36 in Oklahoma City’s Game 1 victory, 17 in the fourth quarter. Russell Westbrook added 27 points, but shot just 10-of-26. James Harden, who was held to five points in the first game, contributed 21 points for Oklahoma City.
James was back on Durant after Spoelstra had Battier covering the three-time scoring champion in Game 1.
“That was mutual,” Spoelstra said when asked if it was his or James’ idea. “It was on my mind and as soon as I brought it up, we were absolutely on the same page.”
Oklahoma City started chipping away at Miami’s lead that peaked at 17 in the first quarter and never dropped below nine until early in the fourth quarter.
“I love the way we came back and fought and made it a one-possession game at the end,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “But when you get down by 17, too many things have to go right for you.”
With the lead down to three and less than two minutes remaining, James made a 16-foot floating bank shot that pushed the Heat lead back to 96-91 with 1:25 to play.
After clamping down and forcing the Thunder into three misses in the next possession, a Bosh dunk on a high pick-and-roll with Wade gave Miami a seven-point lead with 54 seconds remaining.
But the Heat let Oklahoma City back in the game when Durant drove for an easy basket and Wade lost the ball, resulting in a Durant three-pointer with 37 seconds remaining and setting up the hectic final half minute.
Wade had the last laugh after hearing about how his game was deteriorating and how he had lost a step, at least, the last two days. Wade looked sapped in Game 1 after struggling through the Eastern Conference finals against Boston. But Wade was defiant, saying he was still making an impact even as his shooting percentage kept falling.
Finally, for the first time since the Indiana series, Wade truly was impactful shooting 10-of-20 and making several crucial plays down the stretch despite his turnover that allowed the Thunder to pull to within two.
With Bosh back in the starting lineup for the first time since suffering an abdominal strain on May 13, the Heat started fast, racing to a 17-point lead in the first quarter as the Thunder missed 11 of its first 12 shots.
Bosh replaced Udonis Haslem from the lineup that had started the past four games, making the Heat’s seventh different starting lineup of the playoffs.
Bosh had come off the bench for the past four games after missing nine games.
The Heat led 18-2 with help from Bosh, who promised to be more aggressive and delivered, twice being fouled in the early minutes taking the ball to the basket, once making the shot.
Everything seemed to be going the Heat’s way when Durant picked up his second foul with 3½ minutes remaining in the half and came out of the game despite