As is typical in a series like the Thunder-Heat NBA Finals, a lot is always being made out of the fact that Miami was here last year and that Oklahoma City is too young to sniff a chance at beating the Heat.
With just under five minutes to go, Kevin Durant and the Thunder had a 10-point lead. The Heat didn't want to head into tomorrow night down 2-1 at home in the best of seven series. After having trailed by eight points earlier in the game, Derek Fisher's 3-pointer and free-throw off Mario Chalmers' foul gave the young boys from OKC a 10-point lead.
With last year's Finals loss to Dallas still lingering in their heads, the Heat chipped away until they got close. Once LeBron James completed their comeback by nailing a 3-pointer to make it 69-67 with 52 seconds remaining in the third quarter, there was no looking back.
"Every day we remind ourselves," Miami Forward Chris Bosh said. "We think of that pain that we experienced last year,"
Bosh said that giving an all-out effort on the court, playing hard-nose defense and rebounding were key in not just winning, but trying to not repeat last year's failure in the championship. Bosh fell to the floor as he walked to the locker room, emotionally spent after losing to the Mavericks.
"But it hurts a lot worse when you’re not successful as opposed to, I guess, your lungs burning and your muscles burning from giving that extra effort, " Bosh added.
"We carry that pain with us. We think about it every day and that really helps us to succeed in this series."
As much as players with say that it's in the past, it's good to just now that the sour taste is there from game to game. Miami is just two wins away from at least erasing that painful loss.
James, who is criticized for whatever fourth quarter ineptness folks think he has, managed to score eight of his 29 points in the final quarter.
He too reflected on repeating last year's defeat in the Finals and what they've learned and we're seeing the fruition of it on the court not just settling out there.
"We talk about it all the time. We understand that it's been a great teacher for us, just the experience. We don't take things for granted. We understand that we accept each challenge as its own," James said.
James said doing the little things like playing defense, contesting shots, going after rebounds and playing mistake-free basketball is what will give them another shot to win Game 4 and take a 3-1 lead with the chance to close it out all home Thursday night.
For Miami, it's about getting this done now and being there last year and everything they went through has made them a much better team.
There's no "let's do this in the summer of 2013."
Even as they trailed by 10 points and it looked as it was going to go Oklahoma City's way, the Heat were not going to let it just go like that.
"Nothing is promised. You can't always say we have next year because you never know what can happen," Dwayne Wade said. "Last year, I don't know, we experienced enough as a unit to deal with what came at us, and it showed."
His steal on the failed inbound pass by Thabo Sefolosha and his free throws that followed locked the 91-85 win.
Wade said that having gone through a bevy of different things in the Finals last year despite the disappointing loss has really served them well.
Experience does count.
"This year, no matter what's happening or no matter what happened, I feel we're a more experienced team and it's just not saying that we want it more," Wade said. "I just feel like we understand the situation more. We can deal with it better... We come from the finals from last year to this year; experience is not overrated at all."
They were down big and came back. A year ago they would have most likely lost and headed into Game 4 down two games to one.
A year later, in the same situation they've got a 2-1 lead.
What a difference one year makes.