Miami, FL – The Miami Heat again managed to hold off the relentlessly persistent Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, eventually escaping with a 91-85 win in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to score the last 15 points for Miami, which overcame a 10-point third-quarter deficit and secured a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"We understand our supporting cast is going to be there for us no matter what's going on throughout the game. But if the game gets tight, one of the three of us, or all three of us, have to make plays to bring home the win," sad James.
The Heat outscored the Thunder 31-15 from the free throw line and relied on that production when their offense stalled in the third. They managed just four field goals in the quarter, but went 13-for-14 from the charity stripe and battled back while Kevin Durant sat on the bench with four fouls.
"We fouled too many times, said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "We've got to do a better job defending them without fouling."
James finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds, Wade scored 25 and Bosh had 10 and 11 rebounds. As a team, Miami shot just 37.8 percent from the field.
Durant, who was off on a potential tying baseline runner in the closing seconds of Game 2, had 25 points to pace Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook scored 19 and pulled his team within one in the closing minutes, but later missed a potential game-tying three-pointer.
Game 4 will take place on Tuesday in Miami.
Sunday's action was a bit of a role reversal for the Heat, who jumped out to a double-digit leads in Games 1 and 2. The Thunder, though, avoided the sluggish start in this one and looked to grab control in the third after a back-and-forth first half.
Durant didn't miss a shot in the opening minutes of the third and poured in eight points, but he quickly picked up his fourth foul after helping his team to a 60-53 lead.
With their offensive juggernaut on the bench, the Thunder initially pushed the advantage to 10 on a four-point play from Derek Fisher, but the Heat methodically reclaimed the lead at the line.
Six of those free throws came on back-to-back possessions, when Shane Battier and James Jones were fouled while attempting three-pointers. Later, Wade hit a pair from the line, then found James in the corner for a trey and a 69-67 lead entering the fourth.
"We fouled their three-point shooters, gave them six points when we were up 10," said Brooks. "It was the right call. We fouled both shooters."
Wade and James struck again midway through the final quarter, combining for an 8-0 run which turned a one-point deficit into a permanent advantage. They highlighted the burst with consecutive three-point plays, both of which came off Thunder turnovers.
Wade went first, taking the contact from Kendrick Perkins and getting a floater to go after a Durant turnover. Harden then passed the ball out of bounds near the top of the key and James took advantage, barreling down the right side and scooping home a layup as he collided with Durant.
The Thunder managed to make one last push, sparked by Thabo Sefolosha's strip of Wade near midcourt. The long-armed defender came up with the loose ball and drove in for a reverse layup over the outstretched arms of Wade.
The improbable finish made it 86-83 and Westbrook buried a pullup jumper off of a Wade miss with 1:30 left, but Miami fittingly sealed the win from the stripe.
On the team's next possession, James found an open Bosh, who made a pair of free throws after drawing the foul. Westbrook then found himself open on the left wing, but his potential game-tying three found the rim.
With 29.9 seconds remaining, Brooks urged his team not to foul, but James Harden fell backwards while guarding James near midcourt and was whistled for the violation. James made 1-of-2 free throws and Wade later added a pair to seal the final result.
"It seems like every game, our whole run has been games like this,' said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "Down the stretch, last three minutes, got to make plays, get free throws. We've been in these situations and I think right now everybody is of the mind set that whatever it takes. If we get those opportunities, then step up there with confidence."
Entering Sunday, the Thunder had yet to hold a lead in the first half of the series. They overcame a 13-point deficit to take Game 1, but weren't as fortunate in Game 2, which saw the Heat jump out to an 18-2 advantage before holding on for the win.
Although Oklahoma City avoided such a start in Game 3, Miami still held a 26-20 lead after the first quarter behind 10 points from James.
Durant finished with 13 first-half points and nailed a turnaround jumper to tie the game early in the second quarter. He drained a trey shortly before the break for a 41-38 lead but Battier hit a pair of shots from beyond the arc and James added a three-point play in the final minute.
Westbrook, who scored 13 in the opening half, drained a three shortly before the buzzer and the Heat were up 47-46 at the break.
Miami made 88.6 percent of its foul shots (31-of-35)...Harden finished with nine points on 2-of-10 shooting...The Thunder shot 42.9 percent from the field as a team and went 15-of-24 from the foul line (62.5 percent).