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Monday, June 18, 2012 - Page updated at 09:30 p.m.
Heat beats Thunder 91-85 for 2-1 series lead | NBA Finals
By Brian Mahoney
The Associated Press
MIAMI — LeBron James and the Heat remember the pain from a year ago.
They needed two wins for a title and never got another, the superstar player coming up small in the biggest moments — a Finals failure for which James has accepted the blame.
He seems determined not to let it happen again.
James had 29 points and 14 rebounds, and the Miami Heat took a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals with a 91-85 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday night. Dwyane Wade had 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Heat, which was in this same position through three games last year, then didn't win again against the Dallas Mavericks.
"We carry that pain with us," the Heat's Chris Bosh said. "We think about it every day and that really helps us to succeed in this series."
James, particularly, is on top of his game. His three-pointer sent the Heat to the fourth quarter with the lead, and he scored five straight Miami points to help hold off another late flurry by the Thunder.
"Big-time player makes big-time plays on the big stage," Heat reserve James Jones said.
Game 4 is Tuesday night.
Kevin Durant had 25 points for the Thunder, but picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter and went to the bench when Oklahoma City had seemed to have control of the game.
"It was frustrating," Durant said. "Of course, we had a good lead and they came back and made some shots. We fouled shooters on the three-point line twice. It's a tough break for us, man. You know, I hate sitting on the bench, especially with fouls."
The Heat survived fourth-quarter sloppiness — nine turnovers — by getting big plays from its Big Three.
James scored 30 and 32 points in the first two games, his two best Finals performances. He fell just shy of another 30-point effort but reached 20 points for the 20th time this postseason, two shy of Wade's franchise record set in 2006.
Gone is the player who seemed so tentative down the stretch last year in his second Finals failure. James is constantly on the attack now, all while defending Durant in key situations.
Bosh had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat, which can win a second title by winning the next two games at home. That's what Miami did in 2006, one of just two home teams to sweep the middle three games in the 2-3-2 format.
Oklahoma City led by 10 midway through the third quarter. But Durant sat down with 5:41 left after being whistled for a foul on Wade's baseline drive, though there appeared to be little or no contact. Thunder coach Scott Brooks decided to sit Russell Westbrook with him, and the Heat charged into the lead by the end of the period.
Westbrook looked angry going to the bench, but denied any frustration afterward.
"Nah, man. I mean, coach's decision," Westbrook said. "Got to live with it."
NBA Finals Best-of-seven series between Thunder and Heat (all games on Ch. 4) Game Outcome 1 Oklahoma City 105-94 2 Miami 100-96 3 Miami 91-85 When Where Time 4 Tuesday Miami 6 p.m. 5 Thursday Miami 6 p.m. 6 x-Sunday Okla. City 5 p.m. 7 x-June 26 Okla. City 6 p.m. x-if necessary
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