MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Heat moved one game closer to it’s second NBA Championship Tuesday night at the AmericanAirlines Arena with a thrilling 104-98 victory in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
But the happiness may be short-lived as a late injury to Heat superstar LeBron James could put a huge question mark on the rest of the series.
While Chris Bosh and the Heat talked about being as desperate as the Thunder in Game 4, the first quarter started out about as poorly for the Heat as possible.
The Heat got the scoring started with Chris Bosh early, but from there, things went downhill in a hurry. The Thunder opened up an early 13-3 lead over the Heat after Miami missed five of their first six shots from the field.
The Thunder commanded the pace early and Miami was completely flat coming out of the gates. Through the first nine minutes of the first quarter, Miami was shooting just 29.4 percent from the field and 40 percent from the free throw line.
Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook couldn’t miss from the field and after hiting a jumpshot over LeBron at one point, he stood with his hand in the air to pose for the cameras. Oklahoma City shot 62.5 percent from the field in the first quarter.
The only Heat player who came into the game with a fire in his gut was rookie Norris Cole who scored five points at the end of the first quarter including a 3-pointer to end the quarter.
As Miami prepared to take the floor for the second quarter, the Heat trailed the Thunder 33-19.
Powered by the combination of LeBron and Cole, the Heat quickly ate into the lead in the first two minutes of the second quarter. Miami started the quarter with a 7-0 run forcing Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks to call a full timeout.
James Jones hit a three-pointer for the Heat coming out of the Thunder’s timeout to close the lead to 33-29 as Oklahoma City’s star Kevin Durant watched from the bench.
Miami kept the pressure up on Oklahoma City as a layup and foul on Mario Chalmers helped the Heat close the lead to 33-32.
After a Russel Westbrook basket, Wade came off a nice screen and drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game. A couple of quick Thunder baskets stretched the lead back to five before problems hit the Miami Heat.
Dwyane Wade drove to the hoop against the Thunder’s Serge Ibaka and ended up landing flat on his back and was in excruciating pain and barely got off the court. But after a Heat teimout, Wade was back on the court.
On the very next possession, Mario Chalmers, who has struggled mightily from the field drilled a 3-pointer to bring the Heat back.
Miami went back and forth with the Thunder of the next several minutes, but couldn’t regain the lead as every time Miami got within a point, the Thunder’s Westbrook would hit a shot to keep the Thunder lead at least 3 points.
Miami trailed the Thunder 45-42 with a little more than two minutes left in the quarter and could never get closer than one point. Westbrook scored 18 points and took 15 shots and was the man Miami couldn’t cover in the first half.
LeBron finished the half with 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists. Wade finished the half with 10 points, while Bosh and Cole both had 8 in the half.
Miami ended the half trailing the Thunder 49-46 and desperately needed an answer to how to slow down the Thunder’s Westbrook.
Coming out of the half, Dwyane Wade hit two free throws and a jumper to give the Heat their first lead since the opening minute of the game. But, Durant quickly quieted the rally with a 3-pointer of his own.
Miami and Oklahoma City would exchange baskets until Mario Chalmers hit a huge 3-point shot with 7:07 left in the third quarter to give the Heat their biggest lead of the night to that point at 64-60.
Wade carried the offensive load early scoring 18 points through 25 minutes and was 6-11 from the field. The Heat started to grind the game out against the Thunder in the third quarter and after a slow start, the Heat had four players in double-figures with 5:00 to go in the third quarter.
As the pace slowed, Miami started to execute better in their half-court offense and after a Battier 3-point shot, Miami extended it’s lead to 71-66.
After some feisty play between LeBron and the Thunder’s James Harden, referee Mike Callahan had to tell both players to stop. Miami opened up a 77-72 lead as the third quarter wound down and LeBron James quickly got his scoring up to 20 points.
The Heat finished off the third stanza with a 79-75 lead. Momentum had clearly swung to Miami’s favor as the fourth quarter was set to begin.
LeBron James had a look in his eyes like he was ready to deliver the Heat a 3-1 lead in the Finals. LeBron had 20 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds heading into the fourth quarter.
Since Wade and others had taken up most of the scoring load in the first three quarters, the stage was set for LeBron and the Heat to come out guns blazing in the fourth.
The Miami Heat came out ready to roll in the fourth quarter as Chris Bosh sat on the bench. Chalmers continued his lights out shooting by hitting a 3-pointer three minutes into the fourth that helped extend Miami’s lead to 85-79.
The Thunder took a quick timeout to try to steady the ship and prevent a Heat run. The Heat had erased an early deficit in the game that got as large as 17 points at one point for the Thunder.
But as had been the case for much of thte game, Westbrook single-handedly kept the Thunder in the game. He had 38 points through seven minutes of the fourth quarter.
The crowd at the AmericanAirlines Arena went silent with 5:15 to go in the fourth quarter as LeBron was carried off the court after suffering a knee injury. As he was carried off, a collective gasp went up from the crowd and media row.
Once LeBron went off, the Thunder quickly tied the game at 92-92.
The Thunder took a quick 94-92 lead before Miami tied the game back up and almost immediately after being re-inserted in the game, LeBron hit a crucial 3-point shot to give the Heat a 97-94 lead and then Wade followed up a Thunder miss with a quick bucket to give the Heat a 99-94 lead.
But Westbrook wouldn’t let the Thunder die and hit a layup to close the score to 99-96.
The Heat took over with the ball with 55.5 seconds left in the game and LeBron was having to be helped off the court during the timeout and didn’t return.
So the Heat turned to the player who played arguably the best game of his career, Chalmers. Mario hit a driving layup to get the lead to 101-96.
Westbrook responded quickly bringing the score to 101-98. All LeBron could do was sit on the sidelines and watch.
Udonis Haslem won a big jumpball with 14 seconds left and Mario Chalmers was sent to the line for the Heat. Chalmers responded by nailing both free throws to give him 24 points for the game.
As the final seconds ticked off, Westbrook turned the ball over and Miami finished the gmae with a victory, 104-95.
The win brought Miami within one victory of hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy for the second time in six years as the Heat had a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
Game 5 will be held Thursday night at the AmericanAirlines Arena with a start time of 9 p.m.