Heat complete mission, win title in five games
MIAMI — The wait is over.
Now LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can have a championship celebration with an actual championship trophy.
Pushing to an early 17-point lead and then building from there, the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, closing out the best-of-seven NBA Finals in Game 5, sweeping the three consecutive games on their home court.
“This,” James said, “is the happiest day of my life. This is a dream come true.”
And so, just weeks shy of the two-year anniversary of their July 2010 celebration when they predicted multiple championships upon their collaboration, the Heat’s Big Three have their first as teammates.
“We made the decision two years ago to become a team,” Wade said. “I had a role to play. It might have changed a bit, but at the end of the day, we had one common goal: to become a champion.”
James, the centerpiece of that haul, paced the Heat with his first triple-double of the season, closing with 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds a game after being limited by leg cramps.
To James, it was a moment to push aside those who had called him selfish for joining such an ensemble.
“That’s the only thing that bothered me, that I was a selfish person, a selfish basketball player,” he said of the external commentary these past two seasons. “I strive on being a team player, doing whatever it takes to help this team win. But at the same time, I used it as motivation.”
Wade, limited by early foul trouble, had 20 points. Bosh, who had missed three weeks this postseason with a lower abdominal strain, came through with 24 points and seven rebounds.
Bosh finished in awe of the championship moment.
“The reality is a lot better,” Bosh said winning the title. “But all those times we were working hard in the gym, working hard together, suffering through everything together, it’s all worth it.”
The Thunder, who had taken down the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs in an impressive run through the Western Conference portion of the bracket, were led by the 32 points of forward Kevin Durant and the 19 apiece from guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
“It’s just hurts to go out like this,” Durant said. “We made it to the Finals, which was cool for us, but we just didn’t make it there.”
With James bulling his way to the rim either for baskets or kick-out passes, the Heat feasted from the 3-point arc much in the fashion the Mavericks did in beating the Heat in last season’s NBA Finals.
“They just were the better team,” Westbrook said.
“Those guys,” Durant said, “are really good.”
Down 17 in the first half, the Thunder trimmed that deficit to 10 at the end of the second period and then moved within 59-54 early in the second half.
But that’s when the Heat, who had feasted early on 3-pointers, got 3-pointers from Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier to push back to a 67-56 lead, James’ penetration yet again setting up open outside shots.
The Thunder then trimmed the deficit to seven on baskets by Westbrook and Durant, but the Heat pushed back to another 17-point lead after a flagrant foul was called on Thunder guard Derek Fisher on James.
The Heat led 95-71 at the end of the third quarter, with only the celebration remaining.
“We didn’t win a championship this year,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said, “but they gave me championship effort all year long. I love our guys. I love what they’re about. They’re winners. Unfortunately, we didn’t accomplish our goal.”
But James did.
“That guy’s an unbelievable player, unbelievable person,” Durant said. “It’s a storybook season for him.”
From the depths of last season’s Finals loss to the Mavericks came Thursday’s exhale.
“This team, we had so much pain, so much hurt, so much embarrassment from last year that nothing needed to be said,” Wade said. “We were on a mission to this day.”
With Mike Miller (23 points) hitting his first four 3-point attempts, the Heat rolled to a 59-49 lead at halftime. It was the Heat’s highest-scoring first half of the postseason.
Miller had entered the game 0-for-3 on 3-pointers with just eight points in the first four games of the series. The 12 first-half points represented Miller’s first double-figure first half of the season, regular season or playoffs. He eventually had to step aside with his fourth foul in the second period.
Miller’s early effort was needed, with Wade forced to the bench with his third foul midway through the second period.
James, foiled in a bid for a triple-double in Game 4 due to late cramping, again filled up the box score early, with 15 points, five rebounds and five assists by halftime.
For the Thunder, Durant paced the first-half offense with 14 points.
James opened by converting his first three shots, each a driving attack on the rim, twice drawing fouls in the process.
The Heat then pushed to a 28-19 lead when Miller hit his second 3-pointer.
The first period ended with the Heat up 31-26, shooting 4-of-8 on 3-pointers in the quarter.
James led the Heat with seven first-quarter points, with Durant scoring nine in the period for the Thunder and Westbrook adding eight for Oklahoma City, despite shooting 1-of-5 over the first 12 minutes.
The Thunder again opened cross-matched, with Thabo Sefolosha defending James and Durant on Heat point guard Mario Chalmers.
It was an uneven start for each team, with the Heat opening 1-of-6 and the Thunder 1-of-7, with James and Westbrook getting the lone early baskets.
Foul trouble also was an early issue, with Wade called for his second foul midway through the opening period and Sefolosha whistled for his second moments later. Unlike his typical approach, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra allowed Wade to play through the foul trouble before substituting for him later in the opening period.
NOTES: Miller and Heat forward James Jones have both acknowledged that they might retire. … Charles Barkley, to a Washington radio station, on the continued antipathy toward James, “Everybody hates the homecoming queen because she’s pretty. All the ugly girls hate the homecoming queen. And all the dumb kids hate the smart kids. That’s just the way it is.” … Magic Johnson, on the presence of Heat president Pat Riley’s during this playoff run, “Trust me when I say this, he probably looked at just as much film or more than Erik Spoelstra did for every series.” … The Heat have denied a Forbes report of being on verge of closing NBA’s second-largest TV contract. … The Heat became the 11th team to win a title after losing the NBA Finals the previous season.