SAN ANTONIO—Miami’s LeBron James scored 33 points while making the impact everyone expects of the four-time Most Valuable Player, leading the Heat to a 109-93 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday that leveled the NBA Finals at two games each.
James also had 11 rebounds and four assists and finally got some much-needed help from his struggling All-Star teammates. Dwyane Wade scored 32 points, Chris Bosh had 20 points and 13 rebounds and the defending champions made sure the series will head back to South Beach.
James insisted he would be better after his struggles in Game 3, saying he was the star and it was his job, along with Wade and Bosh, to lead his team.
“It was on our shoulders,” James said. “We had to figure out how to win the game for us and play at the highest level. When all three of us are clicking we’re very tough to beat.”
The series returns to San Antonio on Sunday for Game 5, and the Spurs will be hoping Miami’s three stars can be dimmed.
“When Bosh, Wade and James score the way they did tonight and shoot it the way they did tonight, a team is going to have a difficult time if you help them like we did,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
“When those guys are playing like that, you better be playing a perfect game.”
The Spurs didn’t, committing 19 turnovers that led to 23 points.
Just like they have for the last five months, the Heat bounced back from a loss with a victory — a lopsided one at that. They are 12-0 after defeats since Jan. 10, outscoring opponents by nearly 20 points a game in those previous 11 victories.
“Right now it’s a three-game series,” Wade said. “Two great ballclubs, we just want to come out again and play well.”
Tony Parker had 15 points and nine assists while playing through a sore right hamstring for the Spurs, who were trying to move one step closer to their fifth championship.
Ray Allen scored 14 points for the Heat. Miami had 50 points in the paint after managing 32 in a 36-point loss in Game 3.
Tim Duncan scored 20 points, and Kawhi Leonard added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Spurs, who turned the ball over 19 times. After setting a finals record with 16 3-pointers in Game 3, San Antonio was 8 for 16.
James was an abysmal 7 for 21 for 15 points in Game 3, and he promised to be better in Game 4. He delivered on that the only way he knows how, hitting 15 of 25 shots and putting the team on his shoulders to set the tone early.
Every time James snatched a Spurs miss off the glass he thundered up the court, attacking the back-pedaling defense for easy layups that simply haven’t been there for him this series.
He made six of his first seven shots, controlling the tempo and responding when the Spurs threatened to run away with the game in the first six minutes.
Parker strained his right hamstring during Game 3, leaving many in San Antonio to fear that the big step forward they made with their win in Game 3 came at a hefty price. But Parker deemed himself “ready to go” at the team’s morning shootaround and looked fine, save for a quick trip to the locker room in the fourth quarter.
All the old Parker tricks were there in the first quarter — a pull-up jumper to open the game, a driving layup and then another off the pick-and-roll. Leonard then buried a 3-pointer to give the Spurs a 15-5 lead early in the game.
Then James made the move the Heat have been waiting for all series.
He took the ball coast-to-coast on two straight possessions during run that tied it at 19. James then hit two mid-range jumpers — an area that has been a struggle for him — to cap the 14-2 surge and give Miami a 25-21 lead.
In an unusual move, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra decided to shuffle the starting lineup in the middle of a series. He inserted the sharp-shooting Mike Miller for big man Udonis Haslem in an effort to create more room for James and Wade to penetrate to the rim.
Miller was 9 for 10 on 3-pointers in his first three games of the finals, but was scoreless in the game.
Wade was averaging 2.7 points in the second half in the finals, but had eight in the third quarter of Game 4.
Wade then finished off the Spurs with a flurry of eight straight Heat points followed by an assist to Bosh for a 94-83 lead with seven minutes to play. The Heat’s Big Three scored all but three points for Miami in the fourth.