Heat Muffles Thunder, Takes 2-1 Lead In NBA Finals

The Miami Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday night, to take a two-games-to-one lead in the NBA Finals. LeBron James showed no sign of letting this one get away. He had 29 points and 14 rebounds.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, in the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat now lead Oklahoma City Thunder two games to one. It's a best-of-seven series. The Heat won the latest game in as LeBron James scored 29 points, outpacing Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant who had 25.

NPR's mike Pesca was there.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Miami Heat fans have famously been the beneficiaries of a team-issued training video that offered instructions on such aspects of fandom as showing up on time and cheering until the end. By last night, in their first home game of the NBA Finals, Berlitz basketball was unnecessary.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND BOOING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The Oklahoma City Thunder...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

PESCA: Cheering on the home team was made that much easier as the game began with a slam, then another, and another. Ten layups, a tip in, and a single jump shot comprised the rest of Miami's first half field goals, until with two minutes left Shane Battier hit a three - a made basket that travelled further than the rest of the Heat's field goals combined.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

PESCA: Trailing by just one at halftime, Oklahoma City took the lead to start the third quarter. On defense, they had dedication and resolve. On offense, they had Durant and Russell Westbrook.

ABC's Mike Breen had the call.

MIKE BREEN: Westbrook - oh, a pretty play.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

BREEN: He showed the ball, put it behind the back, lays it in and the largest lead of the night for the Thunder.

PESCA: Oklahoma City would actually push that lead to 10. This, according to Miami's Dwyane Wade after the game, was when character came to the fore.

DWYANE WADE: Experience is not overrated at all. And tonight, you know, that helped us win the ballgame. You know, last year we had leads in most games and, you know, we let the leads go. Tonight, we was down 10 and we kept grinding and kept grinding, to eventually we took the lead and was able to control the game.

PESCA: Wade's attributed the comeback to heart and wisdom, and he wasn't wrong. But Thunder Coach Scott Brooks was less esoteric in his assessment. He acknowledged that a pair of boneheaded plays by the Thunder helped the Heat a lot.

SCOTT BROOKS: They stepped up and shot threes and we fouled them. This is the bottom-line. We fouled their three point shooter, gave them six points when we were up 10.

PESCA: When you foul a shooter in the act of attempting a three-pointer, he gets three free throws. And Miami made all six of theirs. Suddenly, a nine-point lead was a three-point lead, was a two-point Oklahoma City deficit heading into the fourth quarter. Close wins and losses are seen as functions of character, blow-outs is functions of athleticism. That's the narrative we seem to like anyway. This was a close game. Oklahoma City briefly grabbed the lead in the fourth, in fact. But the Heat would get Kevin Durant in foul trouble and pull it out.

The narrow victory had Miami's Chris Bosh speaking of last year's loss in the finals during the post game press conference.

CHRIS BOSH: We carry that pain with us. We think about it every day and that really helps us to succeed in this series.

PESCA: History will tell the Heat that since the NBA finals went to the current format, the team that won game three in a tied series has won the championship 11 out of 12 times. Experience will also tell the Heat that the one exception was last year's version of the Miami Heat.

Mike Pesca, NPR News, Miami.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

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