Crowning moment for King James, Heat
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org June 22, 2012 12:08AM
Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade holds the the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy, and small forward LeBron James holds his most valuable player trophy during a team picture with power forward Chris Bosh, point guard Norris Cole, and guard Terrel Harris, from left, after Game 5 of the NBA finals basketball series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Friday, June 22, 2012, in Miami. The Heat won 121-106 to become the 2012 NBA Champions. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Heat vs. Thunder
HEAT wins series 4-1
G1: at Thunder 105, Heat 94
G2: Heat 100, at Thunder 96
G3: at Heat 91, Thunder 85
G4: at Heat 104, Thunder 98
G5: at Heat 121, Thunder 106
Updated: July 23, 2012 7:55AM
MIAMI — It’s not too difficult to put LeBron James’ dominant performance that capped a magnificent NBA Finals into a perspective that should resonate in Chicago: It was both a put-the-hammer-down clincher and a championship series that Michael Jordan would be proud to call his own.
No matter how he got to the top, the undeniable truth is that James was that good in leading the Miami Heat to a 121-106 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night at American Airlines Arena, clinching the Finals 4-2 and earning James the elusive championship ring.
‘‘It’s about damn time,’’ James said, echoing the sentiments of more people than he knows. ‘‘It’s about damn time.’’
James, the unanimous choice for Finals MVP, scored 26 points and added 11 rebounds and 13 assists. But even those numbers don’t do his performance justice. His defense sucked the life out of the Thunder and star Kevin Durant, which helped turn Game 6 into a rout and celebration in the third quarter.
It was redemption for both James and the Heat after an embarrassing loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals last season. This time, the Heat played with the verve and purpose that the Mavericks had.
‘‘I just went back to the basics,’’ James said. ‘‘My first seven years [in the NBA], I just let the game take care of itself. Last year I tried to prove something to everybody. I played with a lot of hate, and that’s not the way to play basketball. I play with a lot of love and a lot of passion.’’
‘‘We had so much pain, so much hurt, so much embarrassment from last season,’’ said Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who along with Udonis Haslem played on the Heat’s 2006 championship team. ‘‘This year there was nothing to be said. We were on a mission and that mission was not complete until tonight.’’
And he did all series, James not only outplayed Durant, he outhustled him. The Thunder trailed 61-56 and was gaining momentum after Durant blocked James’ inside shot early in the third quarter. But Durant lost the ball on the ensuing fastbreak trying to go behind his back, and James ignited a knockout-blow flurry without scoring a point.
He fed Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier for three-pointers on back-to-back possessions, then hustled to beat Durant to a long rebound, knocking the ball to Chalmers, who scored on a running floater that gave the Heat a 69-58 lead.
The Thunder, struggling all night to maintain the competitive level of the first four games, collapsed under the pressure of James’ will to win — at least, it seemed like that. James passed to Chris Bosh for a three-point play to start a 16-0 run that gave the Heat an 88-63 lead and started the celebration.
With James leading the way, the Heat, which had won the previous three games by four, six and six points, smothered the Thunder with its best team effort of the series. Mike Miller hit 7 of 8 three-pointers and scored 23 points. Bosh (24 points on 9-for-14 shooting), Wade (20 points on 7-for-12 shooting), Battier (11 points, 3-for-7 three-pointers) and Chalmers (10 points, seven assists) gave the Heat six players in double figures.
Durant scored 32 points on 13-for-24 shooting but made little impact. The Heat defense silenced Russell Westbrook, who was coming off a 43-point performance in Game 4. He shot 4-for-20 and scored 19 points Thursday.
‘‘It just hurts to go out like this,’’ Durant said. ‘‘It was tough — that’s the only way I can explain it.’’