Heat takes 2-1 lead in NBA Finals behind LeBron James’ 29
BY MARK POTASH email@example.com June 17, 2012 10:58PM
Nick Collison tries to guard LeBron James, who had 29 points and 14 rebounds on Sunday night in Game 3. | Getty Images
Heat leads series 2-1
All games on Ch. 7, 1000-AM.
G1: at Thunder 105, Heat 94
G2: Heat 100, at Thunder 96
G3: at Heat 91, Thunder 85
Tuesday: at Heat, 8 p.m.
Thursday: at Heat, 8 p.m.
x-Sunday: at Thunder, 7 p.m.
x-June 26: at Thunder, 8 p.m.
Updated: July 19, 2012 6:23AM
MIAMI — The Miami Heat won Game 3 of the Nike Peach Jam on Sunday night at American Airlines Arena.
The NBA Finals took a wrong turn somewhere between Oklahoma City and Miami and turned into an AAU tourney. LeBron James scored six points in the last four minutes to lead the Heat to a 91-85 victory that gave Miami a 2-1 lead. But only because somebody had to win.
If this is the ‘‘New Era,’’ the NBA can have it. Only the judges of the Pacquiao-Bradley fight would consider this good theater. I’ve seen better offense, defense, free-throw shooting, coaching and officiating at the Morris Shootout.
‘‘This is competition at its highest,’’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ‘‘That’s what this is about.’’
If he insists. The NBA can live off the athleticism of its superstars, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. And Game 3 seems like a good place to start. The Thunder, which made 15 of 24 free throws, had as many turnovers (11) as assists. The Heat wasn’t much better (12 turnovers, 13 assists) and had three air balls — including one each by James and Dwyane Wade — though it did make 31 of 35 free throws.
‘‘I thought both teams played as hard as they could,’’ Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ‘‘It was anybody’s ballgame in the fourth quarter.’’
The game was decided in the last 90 seconds. Chris Bosh made two free throws to give the Heat an 88-85 lead with 1:19 to play.
Russell Westbrook (19 points on 8-for-18 shooting) missed a three after finding no one to pass to. As James dribbled down the shot clock, he brushed James Harden with his arm, then bumped him with his shoulder, clearly initiating the contact. Harden was called for blocking.
James (29 points on 11-for-23 shooting, 14 rebounds) made 1 of 2 free throws with 16 seconds left to give the Heat an 89-85 lead. The Thunder designed an inbounds play for a quick hoop. But Thabo Sefolosha inbounded the ball to the left as Westbrook was darting to the right. Wade retrieved the errant pass for a game-clinching turnover.
‘‘We didn’t have great possessions — we had some turnovers down the stretch — but at least we had an attack mentality,’’ Spoelstra said.
There’s a fine line between an attack mentality and a reckless one, and the Thunder crossed it. It had a chance to take control after its best stretch of the series — a 14-2 run that gave the Thunder a 60-51 lead with 6:52 left in the third quarter.
After Serge Ibaka blocked a shot by Mario Chalmers (two points on 1-for-8 shooting), the Thunder had possession and momentum. But Westbrook turned the ball over trying to make a play in the lane with the shot clock winding down, missed a pull-up three-pointer and a drive and then was called for charging.
That and the absence of Durant (25 points on 11-for-19 shooting, no assists, five turnovers), who was benched after picking up his fourth foul trying to defend Wade (25 points, seven assists, five turnovers), short-circuited the Thunder’s momentum. The Thunder made 3 of 8 free throws in the last four minutes of the third quarter. The Heat made 8 of 8 as it took a 69-67 lead after three. Then it was a ballgame.
Just not a very good one.