The Heat was victorious in Game 4 despite trailing by 17 points, storming back from the largest deficit to win a playoff game in franchise history.
Russell Westbrook scored the first and final basket for the Thunder, finishing with 43 points total, the highest scoring total of any player in the Finals since Dwyane Wade poured in the same amount against Dallas during Game 5 in overtime of the 2006 Finals.
Aside from Oklahoma City, the Heat was battling history. In the same situation a year ago, leading 2-1 in the Finals, it collapsed as the Mavericks won the next three games and raising questions about the teams ability to close out critical games.
Cramps forced LeBron James off the court twice in the fourth quarter, sending him to the sidelines for just over a minute midway through the fourth quarter and keeping him out for the final 55 seconds.
In between, James limped all over the court and delivered the clutch basket for Miami as it won 104-98 to claim a 3-1 series lead in the 2012 Finals.
No team in league history has ever comeback from a 3-1 series deficit in the championship and the Heat has an opportunity to close out the series Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The contest was tied at 90 with just under six minutes left as James drove to the rim. He fell to the floor, coughing up the ball in the process and failed to get back on defense.
Wade covered for his fallen teammate, swatting a layup attempt from Derek Fisher.
Mario Chalmers found James down the court and he sank a jumper off the backboard before checking out of the game because of his inability to run.
Without James on the court, Kevin Durant scored four straight points, giving the Thunder its first lead of the fourth quarter and prompting the MVP to head back to the scorers table.
After having his quadriceps iced down by trainers on the bench, James checked back into the game. A layup from Chris Bosh tied the game at 94.
For James, Game 4 in 2011 is when his season began to unravel.
Against Dallas, James converted just 3-of-11 shot attempts, became tentative in the fourth quarter, attempting just one shot as he totaled eight points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Against Oklahoma City, James embraced the pressure.
With the shot clock running down, James launched a 3-pointer from straight away with Thabo Sefolosha in his face, giving Miami a five point cushion.
James scored six of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and fell just one rebound shy of a triple-double, posting 12 assists, nine rebounds and two steals.
With his post game on full display, James seemed unstoppable until his injury.
Fully comfortable in his new role as power forward, eight of his 10 made field goals came within 10 feet away from the hoop.
James led the team with 26 points, but Miami’s back court was just as vital in the victory.
Wade converted a layup following the 3-pointer from James, part of his 25 point effort.
The final five points of the contest were scored by Chalmers, capping off a 25 point, three assist, two rebound, two steal effort. The 25 points matched the highest scoring total for Chalmers in the post season.
Chalmers had missed 13-of-15 shots entering Game 4 and the Thunder decided to stick Durant on him to avoid foul trouble.
While Durant did avoid foul trouble, Chalmers knocked down three attempts from beyond the arc and his layup on Miami’s first possession following the final exit of James clinched the victory.
Durant scored 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting, but added just two rebounds. As Durant shot below 50 percent from the field for the first time in the Finals, Westbrook took over.
Facing heavy criticism for shooting more than scoring champion Durant during the first three games of the series, Westbrook submitted one of the finest performances in Finals history.
Seventeen of his playoff career-high 43 points came in the fourth quarter, including a stretch where he scored 13 consecutive points for Oklahoma City.
By continually slashing to the rim, Westbrook was able to turn a six point deficit into a tie game for the Thunder.
Westbrook converted 20-of-32 shot attempts while adding seven rebounds and five assists but his performance will be overshadowed by a poor decision in the games final seconds.
The shot clock read 0.8 seconds before the jump ball, but was reset to five seconds once Miami recovered the tip. Thinking the shot clock was going to fully reset, Westbrook intentionally fouled Chalmers with 13 seconds left.
Chalmers sank both free throws and ended any chance of a Thunder victory.
Oklahoma City opened the game with a 33 point first quarter, its highest scoring quarter of the series, converting 15-of-23 shot attempts as it built a 17 point lead.
The Heat stormed back in the second quarter and trailed at halftime by just three.
Even though he wasn’t able to close out the game, James’ teammates were there to clinch a much needed game for Miami.
James brought his talents to South Beach in pursuit of a title, now he is just 48 minuets away from accomplishing his goal.