The Miami Heat can't be held down for long.
Two days after suffering the third-worst defeat in NBA Finals history, the Heat evened up the Finals at 2-2, beating the San Antonio Spurs 109-93 behind a vintage performance from Dwyane Wade.
Wade finished with 32 points, adding six rebounds, four assists, and six steals. He was the first player to put up 30 with six steals in a Finals game since Isaiah Thomas in 1988.
"Right now it's a three-game series," Wade said. "Two great ballclubs, we just want to come out again and play well."
Wade did it all for the Heat on both ends of the court, and his Big Three teammates matched his intensity.
LeBron James scored 33 points with 11 rebounds, while Chris Bosh had 20 and 13. "I'm putting all the pressure on my chest, on my shoulders to come through for our team," James said on Wednesday. Like Wade, he came through when his team needed it the most.
"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."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made a key strategic change before the game, going with a small lineup and starting Mike Miller in the place of Udonis Haslem. The Heat never had more than one big man on the floor at a time (Haslem spelled Bosh for 10 minutes, and Chris "Birdman" Andersen did not play a single second).
The move helped free up James and Wade, who scored in the paint seemingly at will. Shane Battier got minutes off the bench in Andersen's place, during which the Heat outscored San Antonio by 13.
Ray Allen contributed 14 points off the bench, and the Heat shot 53 percent from the field. The Heat have now won all six games following a loss in the playoffs, each by a margin of 10 points or more.
Miami controlled the game for most of the first half. After San Antonio opened the game on a 15-5 run, then the Heat clamped down on defense and began finding shots in the paint. Miami went on a 14-4 run to tie game, and led 26-29 points after the first quarter. The Heat shot 61 percent in the quarter, and the Spurs did not get a single offensive rebound, a stark contrast from Game 3.
The Spurs committed 6 turnovers in the first quarter, and 10 total in the first half. Erik Spoelstra’s small lineup (Chris Andersen did not play a minute, and the Heat went with only one big man on the floor – either Bosh or Udonis Haslem) created ample scoring opportunities.
The Heat built up a 10-point lead in the second quarter, as Wade and James took advantage of the Spurs’ defense. But San Antonio closed the quarter on a 11-2 run to close the second quarter, tying the game at 49.
James scored 15 points in the first half, while Wade had 14. Ray Allen scored 8, and the Heat shot 50 percent. Parker scored 15 points, three other Spurs had 7.
But Miami would not be slowed in the second half. Miami built a 5-point lead in the third quarter, helping themselves with 4 blocks and 6 offensive rebounds. Then with 10 minutes remaining, Wade took over.
He hit a 13-foot jumper, then a 5-foot shot in the paint. He stole a bad pass from Danny Green, and took it coast to coast, Euro-stepping in front of Tony Parker for a thunderous dunk. After an 18-foot pullup jumper, Wade assisted on a Bosh layup, and the Heat were up 11 points with 6 minutes to go. All this happened with LeBron James resting on the bench in preparation for the final stretch.
Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 20 points, and four other Spurs scored in double digits. But the Spurs committed 19 turnovers, leading to 23 Heat points. Miami also outmuscled the Spurs in the paint by a margin of 50-38, and gave the Spurs far fewer opportunities for open 3-pointers than they did in Game 3.
Game 5 will be played Sunday night in San Antonio. The win Thursday ensures that the series will return to Miami for Game 6, and if necessary Game 7.
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