OKLAHOMA CITY — LeBron James asked for help, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh provided it.
The Miami Heat finally rediscovered the formula to winning in the NBA Finals — barely.
James scored 32 points, Wade rebounded from a poor opener with 24 and the Heat built a huge early lead before holding off a furious fourth-quarter rally behind their three All-Stars to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-96 on Thursday night to tie the series at one game apiece.
Bosh had 16 points and 15 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup for the Heat, who snapped a four-game finals losing streak with their first victory since Game 3 against Dallas last year.
“We’ve been down. We’ve withstood rallies. The good thing about it, when they scored, we didn’t get our head down. We just got back on offense and started to execute,” James said. “It’s a great team that we’re going against. So we’re going to need every effort, every play and it’s going to take all the way down to zeroes on that clock to get a win.”
Now they go home to host Game 3 on Sunday and the next two after that, knowing they don’t have to hear the noisy Thunder fans again — not to mention all their critics — if they win all three.
Kevin Durant scored 32 points for the Thunder, but missed a shot after appearing to be bumped with James that would have tied a game the Thunder trailed the entire way. Russell Westbrook finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but shot 10 of 25 from the field.
James Harden tried to keep the Thunder in it early and finished with 21 points, but this time the Thunder couldn’t come back from a double-digit deficit after spotting Miami a 17-point advantage during their worst first half of the season.
It was the first home loss in 10 postseason games for the Thunder, who had overcome a 13-point deficit in Game 1.
James had 30 points in the opener, but afterward said he needed more help from his friends, especially Wade.
In Game 1, Wade was 7 of 19. He wasn’t sharp in the last round and continues to hear reports that something is physically wrong with him. He was all but asked Wednesday if his explosiveness was a thing of the past, what must have been insulting to a player who, though 30, still believes he’s not far from the top of the game.
Wade bounced back in a big way, not quite at the level he was as the 2006 finals MVP, but certainly good enough with the help around him now for the Heat to win another one.
He spun into the lane and found Bosh for a dunk that seemed to have the Heat safe at 98-91 inside the final minute, but a 3-pointer by Durant cut it to 98-96 with 37 seconds left. After James missed a 3-pointer, the Thunder got the ball into Durant, who appeared to be knocked off balance by James as he missed the baseline shot attempt.
James then sank the insurance free throws — finishing a 12-for-12 night at the line — as fans booed loudly over the no-call.
Bosh started after coming off the bench in every game since returning late last round from his nine-game absence with a strained lower abdominal muscle. The Big Three joined Battier and Mario Chalmers in the lineup, the first time Miami had gone with that first five all season.
It sent the Heat on their way to a terrific start, and Battier matched his surprising 17-point performance in Game 1 by going 5 of 7 from 3-point range, providing all the help the superstar trio needed.
James had his fifth straight 30-point game, breaking Wade’s franchise playoff record, and added eight rebounds. He defended Durant early in Game 1 and helped put the league’s scoring champion in early foul trouble, just one of the problems the Thunder had early.
Another loud, blue and white crowd tried to inspire them to rally, but the team could just simply never get close enough to until the final minutes.
The home team would get the deficit to around 10, and James would get himself into the post or drive powerfully into the lane to score or set up a teammate.
NBA NOTEBOOK: Count Dwyane Wade among the biggest audience NBA TV has ever had.
Wade set his alarm to wake up from his nap and watch “The Dream Team,” the documentary about the 20th anniversary of the famed 1992 U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning basketball team.
Featuring previously unseen footage and recent interviews with all 12 players from the team, it debuted Wednesday night and averaged 847,000 total viewers, becoming the most-watched telecast in the network’s history.
“I wanted to see some of the behind the scenes of those guys together,” Wade said, “so I enjoyed it as a fan.”
Wade particularly enjoyed the footage of John Stockton walking unrecognized through the streets of Barcelona and the relationships and rivalries between certain people, with one standing out most to the Chicago native who was 10 years old at the time.
“I think the biggest thing that surprised me was probably Michael Jordan and Chuck Daly,” he said. “I knew the rivals behind Chicago and Detroit, for those guys to go out and golf and have the relationship that they had, I found that very shocking.”
Wade played on the last two Olympic teams, including the squad that won gold four years ago in basketball-crazed China, so he appreciated some of what his predecessors lived through.
“Obviously that experience was the first so it will never be duplicated. But from the standpoint just how big the game is to the world,” Wade said. “We did experience some of that and the fanfare that came with being some of the best basketball players in the world.
“Maybe in 20 years we can get us one. You all can see a little behind the scenes of what the Redeem Team went through.”
AWKWARD MOMENTS: After playing for archrivals for the bulk of their NBA careers, it hasn’t always been the smoothest transition for Derek Fisher (formerly of the Los Angeles Lakers) and Kendrick Perkins (formerly of the Boston Celtics) to blend together with the Thunder.
The two were on opposite sides for a pair of championship series, with Perkins and the Celtics winning it all in 2008 and Fisher getting even in 2010.
“It seems so long ago. Oftentimes, we’re talking about things in the locker room and I’ll get ready to say something and I’ll have to think twice about it, like, ‘Perk was on that team, so I better be careful before I say what I’m getting ready to say,'” Fisher said.
“I’m sure he’s had those moments as well, just out of respect for each other.”
Fisher said there have been a few moments of irony, particularly when it looked for a time that Oklahoma City’s opponent in the finals would be Boston. But Miami rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the Eastern Conference finals to prevent that from happening.
Perkins said at the time that he was pulling for the Celtics and thought it would make him “play a little angry” to go against the franchise where he grew up before getting traded last season.
“You just want to get back at the team that traded you but at the end of the day, you’re just trying to win,” Perkins said.
Instead, he and his old nemesis are joining forces against the Heat.
“That’s just the way life seems to work, and so now here we are together trying to find a way to win one together,” Fisher said.
MOM’S TOUGH LOVE: Coach Scott Brooks got his 79-year-old mother’s seal of approval after his Oklahoma City Thunder won the first game of the finals — and that’s not always easy to come by.
Brooks has spoken over the years about how his mother, Lee, always watches Oklahoma City’s games on NBA League Pass from her home in Northern California and frequently calls him afterward with suggestions.
Because she doesn’t like to fly, she had refused to come see any of Brooks’ games unless he reached the finals — the same rules she had set out during his playing career. The first game she attended in Oklahoma City was Game 1, which the Thunder won 105-94.
“No complaints. She had a great time,” Brooks said. “This was her first time here. She loved it. She loved everything about it. The atmosphere is obviously exciting and when we win the game, she’s very happy. The players did a good job, according to her.”
That’s usually the refrain from Brooks’ mom, who raised him and six older siblings mostly by herself while working multiple jobs to make ends meet.
“She never takes it easy but when we win, it’s the players. When we lose, it’s me,” Brooks said. “I tell you: She must have been a former NBA player in an earlier life.”
HELPFUL HIRES: Ten Army Reserves are getting a chance to get a close-up view of the NBA Finals — and maybe prepare for a future career.
The NBA has hired five Reserves in each city to assist in the production of the telecast. The first-year project to help military personnel use their skills and technical training to transition into the sports video production industry.
The staff at Thunder home games included: Specialist Elizabeth Fowler of Oklahoma City, Specialist Skylard Smith of Midwest City, Okla.; Master Sergeant Michael Dustin of Mustang, Okla.; Specialist Mohammed Marhfour of Oklahoma City, and Sergeant Melvin Smith of Oklahoma City.
Among their responsibilities were assisting broadcast engineers with setting up and transporting cables and cameras, and offering additional technical support throughout the arena.
HAUNTED HOTEL: There’s a theory that has circulated around the NBA that the Skirvin Hilton, one of the downtown hotels that teams visiting Oklahoma City use, is haunted. For the finals, the Heat have been staying there.
“The ghosts ain’t knocked on my door, so we’re cool,” center Udonis Haslem said.
Forward Shane Battier said he doesn’t believe in ghosts and he’s been resting just fine, particularly since he hasn’t been getting any early wake-up calls from his 4-year-old and 1-year-old back at home.
“It’s going to take a little more than ghosts to keep me from my catch-up sleep here,” Battier said with a laugh.