The doubts came down like a storm as James, Wade and Bosh arrived at Chesepeake Energy Arena for Game 2 of the NBA Finals. But by the time the Heat boarded a flight back home to Miami, its all-star trio had forcefully trounced the negative perceptions — for one night at least — and escaped with a hard fought, 100-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“We don’t feel lucky,” Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Everything we’ve been through has shown that this group has a resourcefulness, a resolve, a resiliency. We’re all a very stubborn group.”
James scored 32 points, a career high in the Finals, and provided the finishing touches — a difficult bank shot over Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha, stout defense as Kevin Durant attempted a potential tying jumper and two clinching free throws — on a win that evened the best-of-seven series at a game apiece. Miami became the first team to win in Oklahoma City this postseason. Game 3 is Sunday night at American Airlines Arena.
“I mean, I’m a confident guy,” said James, who connected on all 12 of his free throw attempts. “On a big stage like this, in a big game like this, every point counts, every point matters. I’m happy that I was able to go up there and make a few plays. Go up there and make my free throws. We needed it. We needed every point.”
After answering questions the day before about possibly succumbing to Father Time, the 30-year-old Wade arrived at the arena more than three hours before tip-off, working himself into a lather shooting jumpers. He would finish the game with 24 points, including seven in the fourth quarter.
“I’m not sensitive,” Wade said of the criticism. “I totally understand how the world works. I get it. You know, it’s fine. I can take it. Maybe I’ll get defensive at times. We all do, we’re human. But just know that I’m always going to keep coming back until I don’t play this game no more.”
Spoelstra made the first major adjustment of the series, putting Bosh back in the lineup for the first time since he crumpled to the floor with an abdominal strain in Game 1 of Miami’s second-round series against Indiana. The injury forced Bosh to miss nine games, and he had come off the bench in the previous four games since returning.
The Heat needed an interior presence that Udonis Haslem had largely failed to provide, and Bosh delivered 16 points and a playoff-career-high 15 rebounds. Afterward he said: “It was a big game for us, and I kind of put it in my mind that I knew that I had to really give the effort that I had been giving before, whether I was ready or not.”