With one more victory, all the doubts end.
For LeBron James. For the Miami Heat. For Pat Riley’s Big Three vision during 2010 NBA free agency.
Surging back from an early 17-point deficit, the Heat survived a late James cramp and 43 points from Russell Westbrook for a 104-98 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday.
The victory pushed the Heat to a 3-1 series lead, with Game 5 Thursday on the Heat’s home court. If the Heat don’t close it out then, the series shifts to Oklahoma City for the potential final two games.
James led the Heat with 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds, falling short of a triple-double only when a late cramp got in the way. Heat guards Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers added 26 and 24 points, respectively.
With that type of balance, not even 28 points from forward Kevin Durant was enough for the Thunder.
The Heat pushed to a 90-83 lead early in the fourth quarter on a Wade 3-pointer, but Westbrook, clearly back in his offensive rhythm, converted a 3-point play and scored on another driving basket to draw the Thunder within 90-88 with 6:47 to play, with another basket by the Thunder point guard tying it 90-90.
From there, James scored in transition for the Heat, for a 92-90 lead, but then had to be helped off when he suffered a cramp with 5:15 to play and the Heat up by that score.
A pair of Durant free throws tied it 92-92, and before James could check back in, Durant hit a jumper for a 94-92 Thunder lead. James then re-entered after a Chalmers turnover, with a Chris Bosh layup tying it 94-94.
Westbrook then was off with a shot, and James, clearly not at full explosion, drained a 3-pointer for a 97-94 Heat lead.
Chalmers followed with a steal, and a scooping layup by Wade put the Heat up 99-94.
They held on from there.