MIAMI—Going back to the summer of 2010, when the Miami Heat brought together the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, to some it seemed those three alone would be enough to win a championship. But here in Game 5, with a championship on the line, Miami got contributions from all over the roster to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 121-106, helping the three stars erase the sting of losing in last year’s Finals and making the Heat NBA champions.
It is especially sweet redemption for James, the Finals MVP, who was outstanding in every aspect of the game, with a 26-point, 13-assist, 11-rebound triple double. Bosh had his finest performance of the postseason, scoring 24 points, on 9-for-14 shooting, with seven rebounds. Wade had 20 points and eight rebounds.
But with the Thunder overplaying James, it was the Heat’s perimeter players who pushed the team to the win. Miami got the game of a lifetime from reserve guard Mike Miller, who scored 23 points on seven 3-pointers. Point guard Mario Chalmers, the Game 4 hero, scored 10 points and had seven assists, while forward Shane Battier added 11 points.
In all, Miami shot 14-for-26 from the 3-point line, none of the makes by James, Wade or Bosh.
For the Thunder, whose three star players—Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden—are all 23 or younger, the series will go down as a learning experience. Durant led the team on Thursday with 32 points, and Westbrook had 19 while shooting a woeful 4-for20. Harden, nightmare series continued, as he had just eight points on 1-for-6 shooting through the first three quarters. As a team, Oklahoma City shot 39.3 percent from the field.
Both teams started the game looking tenuous with their shots—the Heat were just 1-for-6 from the field in the opening minutes, while the Thunder were 1-for-7. But Miami quickly got its act together, moving the ball crisply, attacking the rim and creating open looks for its shooters. The Heat made nine straight shots in the first quarter, including back-to-back 3-pointers from Miller that staked the Heat to a 28-19 lead with 1:50 to go in the first. Seven different players scored for the Heat in the opening period, and the team had seven assists on 11 field-goals. The Thunder kept hanging in though, scoring the final four points of the quarter to cut the lead to 31-26.
The Thunder looked like they would stay with the Heat to open the second quarter, too, Russell Westbrook hit a 3-point play on a jumper and a foul, and Derek Fisher made a 3-pointer that cut the lead to just two with 10:49 to play.
That was when Miami blitzed the Thunder with a 19-4 run, getting five points from Wade, four each from Bosh and James, plus another 3-pointer from Mike Miller (his fourth of the game). A dunk from James at 4:40 of the second gave Miami a 53-36 lead, and had the Thunder reeling.
Oklahoma City bounced back to close out the half, thanks in large part to their ability to get to the free-throw line and convert. The Thunder shot just 36.6 percent from the field in the first half, and allowed the Heat their highest scoring half of the postseason, but thanks to 17-for-18 shooting at the foul line, the Heat’s halftime lead was a manageable 59-49.
In the third, the Heat delivered the knockout punch from which the Thunder could not recover. After a Serge Ibaka dunk brought the Thunder to within five, 61-56, at 10:34 of the third, James began to exploit the defensive adjustment the Thunder made at halftime—running defenders at James and forcing the ball out of his hands. That led to back-to-back 3-pointers from Chalmers and Battier, putting the Heat back up by double digits. After Westbrook made a free throw to cut the lead to nine, the Heat scored 16 straight to go ahead, 88-63.
At that point, the game and the series were effectively over, and all that was left to do was chill the champagne.