Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

James and Heat Stand One Victory from Title

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

James and Heat Stand One Victory from Title

Article excerpt

Mario Chalmers stepped up and hit a late shot as Miami beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 104-98, to take a 3-1 lead in the finals.

The stage was set, the script all but written, personalized for LeBron James. All the Miami Heat needed in Game 4 of the National Basketball Association finals, with the score tight and Russell Westbrook driving down their throats, was a timely play or two.

But James was stuck to the bench Tuesday, his right leg aching, his face scrunched in pain and frustration. In these critical final seconds, the Heat needed a substitute closer. So while James watched and fidgeted, Mario Chalmers stepped into the gap and delivered perhaps the biggest shot of his career, a driving layup that helped the Heat put away a 104-98 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder and seize a 3-1 lead in the series.

James stands one victory from his first championship, though he could hardly stand at the end.

Miami can clinch the title here Thursday night. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the finals and won the title, in 30 tries.

Chalmers finished with 25 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, to help the Heat hold on after another wild game. James had 26 points and 12 assists before his leg seized up late in the fourth quarter. Dwyane Wade added 25 points.

Miami coach Eric Spoelstra said that James was suffering from leg cramps.

"He was playing at an incredible pace and intensity level," Spoelstra said.

Westbrook dazzled all night, scoring a career playoff-high 43 points. He was as aggressive as he was efficient, going 20 for 32 from the field.

"It really doesn't mean nothing," Westbrook said. "We didn't come out with the win."

Kevin Durant added 28 points, but he missed a late 3-pointer, then swung his arm in disgust.

As in every game in this taut series, no lead was safe. The Thunder took a 17-point lead in the first quarter, lost most of it in the second and fell behind by 7 in the third. The Heat led, 90- 83, with 7 minutes 35 seconds left. That did not last either. Westbrook orchestrated a personal 7-0 run, tying the score at 90.

Moments later, James was limping to the bench, favoring his right leg. …

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