Leg injury won’t cramp LeBron James’ style
MIAMI – The Miami Heat are one victory shy of their second NBA championship in franchise history, following a gutsy performance by LeBron James in their toughest test to date in the 2012 NBA finals.
Three-time league MVP James finished just short of the triple double with 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds as the Heat beat Oklahoma City 104-98 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
James hit the go-ahead three pointer with just under three minutes left in the fourth to give the Heat a 97-94 lead that they would maintain for the rest of the game.
But James wasn’t on the floor for the final minute of the game after being stricken with painful leg cramps that forced him out of the game with just 55 seconds to go.
“It is like your body just shuts down, your legs shut down on you and there is nothing really you can do about it,” James said.
The cramps started with about five minutes left and he had to leave the game for treatment on the sideline. Even though the pain wouldn’t go away, James returned briefly to the game, and on one leg he managed to nail the crucial three pointer to give Miami a three-point lead with 2:51 left.
“The ball was swung to me and the shot clock was going down,” James said. “I just wanted to step up and make a play. I was able to drain the three and give us a lift. If I was on the floor I wanted to try to make a play with the limited mobility I had at the time and I was happy I was able to come through.”
The Heat have three chances to clinch their first title since 2006, starting with Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena. Games six and seven, if needed, are back in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder have a huge mountain to climb as no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in an NBA finals.
The Heat were down by 17 points in the first quarter of game four Tuesday but they didn’t fold, going on a 13-0 run to start the second quarter to quickly bounce back.
In last year’s final, Miami lost game four in Dallas, kicking off a three-game slide that cost them the title.
But this is a much tougher Miami team, one that can win those battles of attrition that would have doomed them last season, said forward Chris Bosh.
“I don’t think we would have won a lot of these games a year ago,” Bosh said. “We were the ones who had the lead last year and we couldn’t capitalize. That was the biggest lesson for us because we really learned that we had to play right to the end of games.
“With LeBron going down or somebody going down it can look bad, but those are the things you have to fight through. We just have to continue to meet the challenges and beat them.”
James said the cramps aren’t a serious injury and he was walking much better after the game, going back and forth between the dressing room and the media interview room.
“I knew I probably wasn’t going to be able to finish the game,” James said. “I knew I wasn’t injured. I just had cramps. I have had it before. I tried to walk but my legs weren’t letting me move.
“Between now and game five I will just try to rehydrate. I will be ready for game five. Hopefully I can stay hydrated and it doesn’t happen again.”