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NBA Finals: Heat’s stars step up to even series at 2-2
SAN ANTONIO — LeBron James wanted the responsibility on his powerful shoulders.
“So tonight was kind of one of the best performances that we all had in the playoffs together at the same time, just being aggressive from start to finish, and hopefully that’s what we can see for the next three games.”
“It was on our shoulders,” James said. “We had to figure out how to win the game for us and play at the highest level. When all three of us are clicking we’re very tough to beat.”
Sure was. His three prized players are just fine, and so are the Heat’s championship hopes.
“When Bosh, Wade and James score the way they did tonight and shoot it the way they did tonight, a team is going to have a difficult time if you help them like we did,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
“When those guys are playing like that, you better be playing a perfect game.”
The Spurs weren’t, committing 19 turnovers that led to 23 points.
And just like they have for the past five months, the Heat bounced back from a loss with a victory. They are 12-0 after defeats since Jan. 10, outscoring opponents by an average of nearly 20 points in the previous 11 victories.
Tim Duncan scored 20 points for the Spurs, who have one more game here on Sunday. They fell to 10-3 at home all-time in the finals, failing to back up their 113-77 victory in Game 3 that was the third-most lopsided score in the history of the championship series.
James insisted he would be better after shooting 7 of 21 from the field with no free throws in that game, saying he was the star and it was his job to lead his team. He was 15 of 25 on Thursday.
But while James — and millions of critics worldwide — wanted to pile all the pressure on the league’s MVP, it was Wade on Wednesday who said it was the Heat’s three All-Stars who had to lead them together, or there would be no championship.
He was right. And now those championship hopes are right back on track.
“The thing we talked about is we all have to make an impact in this game, somehow, some way.”
Gary Neal scored 13 points and Danny Green had 10, solid nights but nothing like when they combined for 13 3-pointers two nights earlier.
“They play very aggressive defense,” Parker said. “They gamble and they take a lot of chances, and tonight it worked.”
The Heat guaranteed they will get at least one more game on their home floor. Game 6 will be Tuesday night, where they could have a chance to celebrate a second straight championship.
The revelry in South Florida was marred Thursday by an accident in which the deck behind a popular sports bar collapsed during the game, spilling patrons into Biscayne Bay. Miami Dade Fire Chief David Downey said 24 people were transported to area hospitals, and that two people were in serious condition.
“We share our concerns for all that was injured at Shuckers restaurant,” Wade said as he started his postgame news conference.
Wade, battling right knee pain throughout the spring, helped the Heat put it away in the fourth quarter. He followed a basket with a steal and dunk, pushing the lead to 90-81, and after he made another jumper, Bosh scored the next six Heat points, taking the load off James.
“We’re not going to put him on an island,” Bosh said. “He’s never alone. We’re out there with him.”
The Heat switched their lineup, inserting Mike Miller, who made 10 of his 11 shots, going 9 of 10 on 3-pointers, in the first three games of the series. He was scoreless on Thursday.
The Heat changed uniforms, too, switching from their road reds to their blacks.
The only change they really needed was in the performances of their Big Three.
James called it a “must-win” and it probably was: No team has overcome a 3-1 deficit in the finals.
And the way their three stars played, they couldn’t lose.
The Heat blocked shots, made stops, and occasionally flopped, playing with renewed aggression after what coach Erik Spoelstra called a “miserable” day of watching and analyzing their passive performance from Tuesday.
They still haven’t lost two in a row since Jan. 8 and 10.
After the teams traded blowouts in the previous two games, momentum swung wildly in a first half that ended tied at 49.
San Antonio raced to a quick 10-point lead, fell behind by 10 with 7 minutes left in the half, then finished with an 11-2 spurt sparked by reserve Boris Diaw. Bosh drove for a dunk that came just after the buzzer, Spurs owner Peter Holt waving it off from his seat along the sideline.
James rocked back and forth during the national anthem, a bundle of energy ready to get going.
It took a few minutes after the game started, but he began playing with the speed and power that can make him unguardable, grabbing rebounds on defense and rushing the ball up the floor himself to get the Heat into their offense.
By Tammy Bruce
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