June 20, 2012 ·1 Comments
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James of the Miami Heat are one win from the NBA Championship (Photograph: Ronald Martinez/Getty).
MIAMI — LeBron James is within touching distance of a championship ring while the Oklahoma City Thunder will need to make history after Miami Heat won Game 4 of the NBA Finals 104-98.
Miami now lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and no team has blown a lead of that scale in 30 previous occasions in the finals.
James led the Heat with 26 points, plus nine rebounds and 12 assists, but was off the court after hurting his leg in the fourth quarter. Hardly able to move, James returned from a left leg injury to make the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2:54 remaining.
Mario Chalmers, who had just five points in the previous two games, came good and matched Dwyane Wade by scoring 25 points.
Game 5 is Thursday night and James will have a chance to finish a championship chase that started in Cleveland before he infamously left for Miami before last season.
The result was all the more galling for Russell Westbrook who had his best game of the finals for OKC, scoring 43 points. Westbrook and Kevin Durant scored 71 points, while the rest of the Thunder line up scored just 27. Westbrook and Durant were the only Thunder players to score in the last 16:46 minutes.
James Harden’s evening was summed up by a simple missed layup which could have given the Thunder the lead back in the fourth quarter. Harden finished with 8 points on 2-of-10 shooting.
Unlike the previous games it was Oklahoma City who came out in full throttle, storming to an early 17-point lead.
Westbrook hit his first four shots and the Thunder made six of their first seven in a 13-3 burst out of the gate, a lead which grew to 33-17 as the first quarter neared its close.
But the Heat stormed back with a 16-0 burst in the second quarter, and the Heat would come all the way back to tie it at 35 on Wade’s 3-pointer with 7:57 remaining in the half.
But Westbrook constantly came through with a bucket every time the Heat seemed to get within one point in the final minutes of the first half. The Thunder took a 49-46 lead into the break after Shane Battier missed a 3-point attempt just before the buzzer.
Neither team could gain separation during a dizzying middle two periods, one score quickly answered on the other end as Miami took a 79-75 lead to the final 12 minutes.
James stumbled to the court on a drive midway through the fourth quarter, staying on the offensive end of the floor as the Heat regained possession on a blocked shot, and he made a short jumper that made it 92-90. After Westbrook missed a jumper, the Heat called timeout as James gingerly went to the court. Unable to walk off, he was carried to the sideline by a pair of teammates.
He returned to a huge roar with four minutes left and the Heat down two, and after Chris Bosh tied it, James slowly walked into a pull-up 3-point attempt. That made it 97-94, and when Wade followed with a layup with 2:19 left, the Heat finally had enough room to withstand Westbrook.
“Whatever it takes. No excuses,” said Wade, who had to shake off his own aches and pains after landing hard on his back in the first half following a spectacular block by Serge Ibaka. “You don’t want to leave this arena saying you missed opportunities.”
June 20, 2012Follow @somalilandpress
By Hassan Ali