MIAMI — The Miami Heat, getting a rousing performance from unheralded guard Mario Chalmers, beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-98 on Tuesday to take a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals and move within one victory of the championship.
LeBron James, after going to the bench late in the fourth quarter with an injury to his left leg, returned to hit a key three-pointer that snapped a 94-94 tie and Dwyane Wade followed with a bold drive to the hoop to put Miami five points ahead.
Lifting the Heat all through the fourth quarter was Chalmers, who scored 12 of his 25 points in the last period.
"Mario Chalmers is a winner, he's shown it his whole life," said Wade, who also had 25 points, one fewer than James, who watched the last minute from the bench nursing his aching leg.
"Coach said earlier, 'keep believing in Mario because he's due, he's due for a big game,' and he came through for us."
Russell Westbrook single-handedly kept the Thunder in the game and finished with 43 points, but made a costly error in the final seconds that denied the Thunder a chance to tie the game.
With 17.3 seconds left and the Heat leading 101-98 with the shot clock set at five seconds for Miami, there was a jump ball called between Udonis Haslem and James Harden. The tip bounded towards the corner.
Instead of allowing Chalmers to gather it and hurl a desperation shot to beat the shot-clock, Westbrook fouled him thinking he had to put him on the line to give the Thunder a chance.
Chalmers sank two free throws that effectively clinched the victory for Miami, now one win away from the title with Game Five on their home court today. — Reuters