MIAMI — LeBron James led a title-saving charge, and now his crown will be on the line one more time in Game 7.
James powered Miami to a frantic fourth-quarter rally and overtime escape as the Heat beat the San Antonio Spurs, 103-100, on Tuesday night to extend the NBA Finals and keep Miami’s repeat chances alive.
Losing his headband but keeping his cool while playing the entire second half and overtime, James finished with 32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, making the go-ahead basket with 1 minute. 43 seconds remaining in the extra period.
“If we were going to go down tonight, we’re going to go down with me leaving every little bit of energy that I had on the floor,” James said.
Tim Duncan scored 30 points for the Spurs, his most in an NBA Finals game since Game 1 in 2003, but was shut out after the third quarter. He added 17 rebounds.
Game 7 is Thursday, the NBA’s first do-or-die game to determine its champion since the Lakers beat the Celtics in 2010.
“They’re the best two words in sports: Game 7,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
And two words the Spurs were oh so close to avoiding.
They looked headed to a fifth title in five chances when they built a 13-point lead with under four minutes remaining in the third quarter, then grabbed a five-point edge late in regulation after blowing the lead.
But James hit a 3-pointer and former Seattle SuperSonics guard Ray Allen tied it with another. Just 5.2 seconds remained in regulation. The Heat was that close to the edge.
“It’s a tough moment. We were a few seconds away from winning the championship and we let it go,” Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili said. “A couple rebounds we didn’t catch, a tough 3 by Ray and a couple missed free throws. It’s a very tough moment.”
James was 3-for-12 shooting after
three quarters, the Heat trailed by 10 and frustration was apparent among the players and panic was setting in among the fans.
Nothing to worry. Not with James playing like this.
He finished 11-for-26, even making a steal after his basket had given Miami a 101-100 edge in overtime.
Before that, he was 12 minutes from hearing the familiar criticisms about not being able to get it done, from having to watch a team celebrate on his home floor again.
Then he changed the game and erased that story.
The Heat, which hasn’t lost consecutive games since Jan. 8 and 10, had too much defense and way too much James for the Spurs in the final 17 minutes. They are trying to become fourth team to win the final two games at home since the NBA went to the 2-3-2 format for the Finals in 1985.
James came in averaging 31.5 points in elimination games, highest in NBA history, according to a stat provided through the NBA by the Elias Sports Bureau.
This wasn’t quite the 45-point performance in Game 6 of last year’s Eastern Conference finals in Boston, but given the higher stakes may go down as more important — if the Heat follows it with another victory Thursday.
Miami is still alive, thanks mainly to James.
“He just made plays. I don’t think there’s any two ways to put it,” Duncan said. “We were in the right position to close it out and he found a way to put his team over the top and we just didn’t make enough plays to do that.”
Kawhi Leonard had 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs. Tony Parker had 19 points and eight assists, but was 6-for-23 from the field.
“Obviously it’s a tough loss,” Parker said. “We had a great opportunity to finish it, but that’s basketball. Now we can show what we’re made of and have a great opportunity.”
The Clippers pulled out of talks with the Celtics to acquire veteran forward Kevin Garnett and coach Doc Rivers, and the teams have no plans to speak again. The Clippers balked at Boston’s proposal of acquiring center DeAndre Jordan straight up for Garnett, and two first-round draft picks as compensation for allowing Rivers out of the final three years of his contract. ... The Finals’ TV viewership for Game 5 was down 12 percent from last year, watched by an average of almost 16.3 million people. That’s down from nearly 18.5 million for the Heat-Thunder series in 2012. ... Shooting guard Monta Ellis, Milwaukee’s leading scorer at 19.2 points per game last season, told the Bucks he won’t exercise his $11 million option for the upcoming season, making him an unrestricted free agent July 1.