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LeBron James scored 26 points with 9 rebounds and 12 assists in the Heat's Game 4 victory
The Miami Heat are one win away from an NBA championship. Miami topped the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-98 in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. LeBron James hit the go-ahead three-pointer while hobbled by leg cramps. He finished one rebound short of a triple-double, with 26 points and 12 rebounds.
Dwyane Wade scored 25 points, while Mario Chalmers played the game of his life, finishing with 25 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. Shooting 9 of 15, 19 of Chalmers' points came in the second half.
"Mario Chalmers is a winner," Wade said. "He's due for a big game and he came through for us."
Oklahoma City led by as many as 17 points in the first quarter, but now must win three games in a row to stave off elimination. Since the NBA switched to a 2-3-2 Finals format in 1985, 13 teams have gone down 3-1 in a series. None won a title, nor even forced a Game 7.
Russell Westbrook exploded for 43 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Kevin Durant added 28 points, but no other Thunder player scored double digits. The two were the only Thunder players to score in the last 16:46.
"Shots were falling," said Westbrook, who was 20 of 32. "It really doesn't mean nothing. We didn't come out with the win."
The Thunder outscored the Heat in the first quarter for the first time in the series. Miami was kept out of the lane for much of the first quarter, and continued to struggle from the field, shooting 35% to open the game.
But the Heat got a spark from rookie PG Norris Cole, whose 8 points keyed a 19-2 run that started late in the first quarter and tied the game early in the second. When Chalmers re-entered, he seemed to have been propelled by Cole, hitting two buckets to break a 2 for 18 streak dating back to Game 2. Miami trailed OKC 49-46 at halftime, but the tide seemed to be turning.
Just after halftime ended, Miami regained the lead for the first time since the opening minutes. The Heat built a seven-point lead at three separate points during the third quarter, but the Thunder hung with them.
Oklahoma City tied the game in the fourth quarter early in the fourth quarter, before James left the court. With the two teams tide at 92 with 5:15 to go, the Heat had to call a timeout with LeBron James slowed by a leg cramp.
Juwan Howard and a trainer had to help James off the court, to the horror of Heat fans. He sat on the bench briefly while the Thunder took a two point lead. Re-entering the game with the game tied again, James hit a three-pointer with 2:43 to go to give Miami the lead for good, perhaps killing the old "LeBron isn't clutch" argument once and for all.
"Whatever it takes. No excuses," Wade said. He had to shake off his own aches and pains after landing hard on his back in the first half following a block by Serge Ibaka. "You don't want to leave this arena saying you missed opportunities."
According to ESPN Stats & Info, James' 26-point, 9-rebound, 12-assist game was the first in an NBA Finals game since Larry Bird did it in the 1986 Finals. James scored or assisted on 55 of the Heat's 104 points.
Chalmers scored the Heat's last five points, including two free throws with 13 seconds to go to extend Miami's lead to five points and clinch it.
The Heat will have a chance to close out the Finals at home on Thursday night, with tipoff at 9pm. If they can't win Thursday, the Heat will have to travel to Oklahoma City for Games 6 and (if necessary) 7.