MIAMI – Thunder rumbled over Miami on Friday, but it was just the meteorological variety the city is accustomed to and not the young Oklahoma City Thunder, who have come to town to vie with the Miami Heat for the NBA title.
A severe storm hit Miami with noisy skies flashing lightning and bringing hail stones down but it was a welcome home show for the Heat, now armed with home court advantage over Oklahoma City in the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) best-of-seven finals.
Game Three of the series will be played Sunday night at American Airlines Arena.
LeBron James and the Heat returned to familiar surroundings after they claimed a split of the opening two games in Oklahoma City with a 100-96 win over Kevin Durant and the Thunder in Thursday’s Game Two of the best-of-seven championship series.
James scored 32 points including some clutch free throws at the end, and made a key defensive stop against three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant with 10 seconds left and the Heat clinging to a two-point lead.
The victory enabled the Heat, who posted a regular season home record of 28-5, to turn the series into a best-of-five with the next three games at home.
The Miami Herald praised James for “asserting his brutish and ridiculously unstoppable toughness” with his clutch performance in Game Two.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel called NBA Most Valuable Player James the team’s “savior”, who “resurrected” the Heat three times during this postseason with a dominant road performance after Miami had fallen behind in a series.
Trailing the Indiana Pacers 2-1 in their second-round series, James scored 40 points with 18 rebounds and nine assists in a 101-93 road win.
Facing possible elimination in the Eastern Conference finals against the Celtics, King James scored 45 points, pulled down 15 rebounds and dealt out five assists in Boston to knot the series 3-3.
James’s latest heroics meant that Miami can clinch the crown with a sweep at home, though that figures to be a tall order against the Thunder, who have shown they can accumulate points in a hurry after falling far behind early in both games.
The Thunder have also shown they are not intimidated on the road.
Durant, who has matched James in the points column so far in averaging 34 points in the finals versus 33.6 for the Heat’s leader, helped Oklahoma City to a 21-12 road record this season, the third-best travel record in the league.
Miami’s supporters hope the team can ride their momentum and clinch the title at home, while the Thunder need one win to assure a return to Oklahoma City for the conclusion of the series.