It was the perfect storm the Heat were waiting for.
The Thunder came out of the gate at full force…Russell Westbrook punished the Heat with a flurry of jumpshots and Miami staggered as it missed 10 of 11 from the field on it’s way to 33-19 deficit.
The Heat took the end-of-quarter break to collect itself.
Would the series turn in favor of the Thunder?…
The Heat proceeded to push back, using a 6-point burst from Norris Cole in the second quarter to spark a run that got the Heat back in a productive rhythm as Miami kicked the D up a notch, producing a 27-16 result.
“It wasn’t a matter of not wanting and not bringing it. Our guys were ready,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They [Thunder] came out with an incredible ferocity to start that game.”
Chalmers and Wade got it going along with James Jones to hit key 3 pointers in the quarter to help start a surge to bring Miami back and the Heat used the quarter as a springboard for the rest of the game.
Miami still trailed at the half and they knew they could not let the Thunder come out on fire again as the deficit could prove too costly.
So the Heat put it all out there.
Miami put a vice-grip on James Harden with their defensive scheme as an assembly-line of players switched on Durant forcing both players to hit contested J’s and containing them for the most part.
Wade and Chalmers stayed productive as their shooting helped Miami control the game on the scoreboard, as LeBron was controlling it on the court.
LeBron stayed aggressive and it felt like anytime he wanted to score on the Thunder he could take it to them on drives to the basket. Both Sefolosha and Durant were having major problems dealing with LeBron’s speed and physicality. LeBron had the game in hand as he masterfully orchestrated the offense from the high-post.
Miami gained the upper hand as the 3rd quarter ended but Russell Westbrook did his best Derrick Rose impression in the 4th quarter to bring the Thunder back from the dead.
“He was trying to will his team to a win,” Spoelstra said, ignoring the part of a question that asked about Westbrook taking 13 more shots than Durant. “You have to respect that fierceness. He brought it tonight.”
Westbrook played a gem of an offensive game, creeping through the Heat ‘D’ for 43 points 7 reb and 5 assists but Miami continued to get great contributions from everyone on defense to shut down everyone else on the Thunder.
“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “They get into you and they make you work for every shot. They’re a very good defensive team.”
By the end of the 4th both teams were worn down and while OKC missed jumper after jumper, the Heat continued attacking the basket and getting buckets.
“That’s our mindset, period,” James said before the game, “That’s just how we play. We always feel like we want to grind out games.”
There was little doubt the Heat were in command of this game and this series but a surprise leg-cramp to LeBron opened the door late for a Thunder comeback. LeBron looked like the 70′s Knicks Willis Reed as he stayed on the court while hobbled and contributed a layup and three-pointer to help the Heat in the clutch.
“LeBron had cramps in his leg,” Spoelstra confirmed. “We talked about it before the game, you had to play with an intensity that you had nothing left. He didn’t. He was playing at an incredible pace.”
“It’s basically like your legs shut down, your body shuts down, there’s nothing you can do about it,” said James, who said he was feeling much better after the game. “Hopefully I can stay hydrated where it doesn’t happen again.”
Luckily, the Heat have been playing better as a unit than they have all post-season and have really found a nice offensive groove since the return of Bosh. The ball movement was crisp and the Heat took advantage of matchups all night. Wade found Bosh on some excellent feeds several times and Chalmers had an excellent cut to the basket before finishing over Ibaka and icing the game for Miami.
“That kid’s not afraid of any moment,” Spoelstra said of Chalmers. “He’s a gamer. He’s got guts. You can’t quantify that.”Chalmers has been hitting big shots since he beat Derrick Rose for the NCAA title.
“That’s a total group effort,” Wade said. “That’s the reason we all came here together. Big plays, big moments, that’s what this team is built on.” ”Mario Chalmers is a winner,” Wade added. “He was due for a big game and he came through for us.”
The Heat used their backcourt to perfection as Wade and Chalmers combined for 50 points, 4 steals, 6 assists and 2 blocks.
Bosh again was able to make his impression felt in the paint with 9 rebounds and several key defensive stops.
LeBron finished a rebound shy of a triple-dubb with 26 points/12 assists/9 rebounds.
Vindication is in sight for the Miami Heat.
“We have to finish the job that we started.” Bosh declared with cameras all around him… meanwhile Durant sat at the visitiors locker-room with a gleam in his eye
“We’re going to keep fighting.” insisted Durant.