OKLAHOMA CITY – LeBron James needed some help.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh provided it as the Miami Heat rediscovered the formula to winning in the NBA Finals — barely.
James scored another Finals career high with 32 points, Wade rebounded from a poor opener with 24 and the Heat built a huge early lead before holding off a furious fourth-quarter rally to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 100-96, on Thursday night to tie the series at one game apiece.
Bosh had 16 points and 15 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup for the Heat, which snapped a four-game finals losing streak with their first victory since Game 3 against Dallas last year.
“It’s been so long since we’ve had them all together,” Heat forward Shane Battier said. “They played like the All-Stars that they are and that’s the effort that we need.”
Now they go home to host Game 3 on Sunday and the next two after that, knowing they don’t have to hear the noisy Thunder fans again — not to mention all their critics — if they win all three.
“We’ve been down. We’ve withstood rallies. The good thing about it, when they scored, we didn’t get our head down. We just got back on offense and started to execute,” James said. “It’s a great team that we’re going against. So we’re going to need every effort, every play and it’s going to take all the way down to zeros on that clock to get a win.”
Kevin Durant scored 32 points for the Thunder, but missed a shot after appearing to be bumped with James that would have tied a game the Thunder trailed the entire way.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but shot 10-for-25 from the field.
James Harden tried to keep the Thunder in it early and finished with 21 points, but this time the Thunder couldn’t come back from a double-digit deficit after spotting Miami a 17-point advantage during its worst first half of the season.
“That was the game. We can’t start off down 18-2,” Durant said. “We can’t go down that much, especially at home. We’ve got to correct it.”
It was the first home loss in 10 postseason games for the Thunder.
“We took too many bad shots. That’s the bottom line,” coach Scott Brooks said. “We got down and then we were playing aggressive and then we had to play with desperation. We just can’t get down 17. I told the guys, ‘We’re a much better team than to be down 17.’ We have to come out with some toughness. We’ve got to come out with force and energy and all of us have to be on the same page of just fighting every possession.”
James had 30 points in the opener, but afterward said Wade needed to be Wade — All-Star, Olympic gold medalist and 2006 Finals MVP.
In Game 1, Wade was 7-for-19. He wasn’t sharp in the last round and continues to hear reports that something is physically wrong with him. He was all but asked Wednesday if his explosiveness was a thing of the past, what must have been insulting to a player who, though 30, still believes he’s not far from the top of the game.
Wade spun into the lane and found Bosh for a dunk that seemed to have the Heat safe at 98-91 inside the final minute, but a 3-pointer by Durant cut it to 98-96 with 37 seconds to go. After James missed a 3-pointer, the Thunder got the ball to Durant, who appeared to be knocked off balance by James as he missed the baseline shot attempt.
Durant said only that he missed the shot, saying he would have to watch the tape to see if he was fouled.
James then made the insurance free throws — finishing a 12-for-12 night at the line — as fans booed loudly over the no-call.
Battier matched his surprising 17-point performance in Game 1 by going 5-for-7 from 3-point range.
James had his fifth consecutive 30-point game, breaking Wade’s franchise playoff record, and added eight rebounds.
Durant nailed a 3-pointer and drove into the lane to throw down a dunk over Battier that cut it to 82-74 with 8:22 remaining.
His 3-pointer from the wing trimmed it to 90-86, and the Thunder got it all the way to 94-91 when Westbrook dunked Durant’s miss with 1:48 to go.
James answered by banking in a jumper.
“The clock is going really fast, but I tried to slow it down in my mind and get a good shot,” James said of the play. “I had a couple turnovers in the fourth quarter that I didn’t like because I wasn’t aggressive enough. I was glad I was able to make a good bucket and some free throws down the stretch.”