MIAMI – LeBron James and Kevin Durant exchanged words. Dwyane Wade and Serge Ibaka did a little shoving. Five technical fouls were called, and Russell Westbrook punched a table in frustration.
This NBA Finals rematch met expectations.
And like that series, it ended with Miami on top.
James had 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, Wade scored 21, and the Heat survived a frantic finish to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-97 on Tuesday.
Felt a little bit like a different month, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. Regardless of what your script is coming into the game, when you play this team, its not going to go according to script. Theyre too good.
But on this night, much like last June, the Heat were better.
Mario Chalmers scored a season-high 20 for the Heat, who were 19 for 19 from the foul line, the second-best effort in franchise history behind only a 30-for-30 game in Boston on March 24, 1993. Chris Bosh added 16 for Miami, which has beaten the Thunder five straight times going back to last Junes title series.
Durant scored 33 points and Westbrook added 21 for Oklahoma City, but both Thunder stars missed potential game-tying three-point attempts in the final seconds.
It was a great game. I cant complain, Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. We could have done a better job of not turning the ball over in the first half. All in all, it was a great game to play and a great game to coach. Unfortunately, we didnt come out with the win.
The game had a little of everything – a fast start by the reigning champions, a one-handed dunk by James on an offensive rebound that will be added to his copious highlight reel, a scrum after a hard foul that led to double-technicals on Wade and Ibaka early in the fourth, an easy rally by the Thunder from an early double-digit deficit, and even workout partners in Durant and James barking back and forth in the final minutes.
Such was the intensity that James slumped over the scorers table with 1:08 left, exhausted.
Im tired as hell right now, James said – and that was more than an hour after the game ended.
With good reason. On an emotional day, there was a wild finish.
Wade lost the ball on an ill-advised, behind-the-back dribble, and the turnover set up Durant for a two-handed dunk that got the Thunder within 96-95 with 44.1 seconds remaining.
Needing a stop on the next trip, the Thunder forgot to play defense instead. Kendrick Perkins and Ibaka both were confused on the ensuing Miami possession, and Bosh was left alone to take a pass from James and throw down a dunk that restored Miamis three-point edge.
We went over and helped, Durant said.
And Miami found a way, again.
Both teams really played up to the billing, Wade said. An excellent basketball game.