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Friday, April 18, 2014

James leads Heat past Thunder to NBA title

By Brian Mahoney
Associated Press

MIAMI The decision is final: LeBron James made the right call coming to Miami.

James had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, and got the kind of help that was worth leaving home for, leading the Heat in a 121-106 rout of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night to win the NBA Finals in five games.

Best player in the game, best team in the league.

James has found it all since taking his talents to South Beach.

"It means everything," James said moments after the win. "I made a difficult decision to leave Cleveland but I understood what my future was about ... I knew we had a bright future (in Miami). This is a dream come true for me. This is definitely when it pays off."

James added the finals MVP honor to his regular-season award, calling it "the happiest day of my life" during the award ceremony as he stood atop the championship podium with his teammates.

He left the game along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for good with 3:01 remaining for a round of hugs and the start for a celebration he’s been waiting for since arriving in the NBA out of high school as the No. 1 pick of the 2003 draft. James hopped up and down in the final minutes, shared a long hug with opponent Kevin Durant, and then smiled as he watched the confetti rain down from the rafters.

"It’s about damn time. It’s about damn time," James said.

The Heat took control in the second quarter, briefly lost it and blew the game open again in the third behind role players, James content to pass to wide-open three-point shooters while the Thunder focused all its attention on him.

The disappointment of losing to Dallas in six games a year ago vanished in a blowout of the demoralized Thunder, which got 32 points and 11 rebounds from Durant.

Bosh and Wade, the other members of the Big Three who sat alongside James as he promised titles at his Miami welcoming party two summers ago, both had strong games. Bosh, who broke down in tears as the Heat left their own court after losing Game 6 last year, finished with 24 points and Wade scored 20. The Heat also got a huge boost from Mike Miller, who made seven three-pointers and scored 23 points.

That all made it easier for James, the most heavily scrutinized player in the league since his departure from Cleveland, when he announced he was "taking his talents to South Beach" on a TV special called "The Decision" that was criticized everywhere from talk shows and water coolers straight to the commissioner’s office. James has said he wishes he handled things differently, but few who watched the Cavaliers fail to assemble championship talent around him could have argued with his desire to depart.

He found in Miami a team where he never had to do it alone, though he reminded everyone during this sensational postseason run that he still could when necessary. He got support whenever he needed it in this series, from Shane Battier’s 17 points in Game 2 to Mario Chalmers’ 25 in Game 4.

In the clincher it was Miller, banged-up from so many injuries that he limped from the bench to scorer’s table when he checked in. He made his fourth three-pointer of the half right before James’ fast-break basket capped a 15-2 run that extended Miami’s lead to 53-36 with 4:42 remaining in the first half.

The Thunder was making a remarkably early trip to the finals just three years after starting 3-29. With Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden all 23 or younger, the Thunder has the pieces in place for a lengthy stay atop the Western Conference.

But inexperience showed in this series, a few questionable decisions, possessions and outright mistakes costing them in their franchise’s first finals appearance since Seattle lost to Chicago in 1996. Westbrook scored 19 but made only 4 of his 20 shots.

Okla. CityMINFG-AFT-AOR-TRAFPt
Durant43:1613-243-32-113532
Ibaka25:473-93-44-4039
Perkins19:451-40-00-4052
Westbrook43:164-2011-130-46319
Sefolosha9:190-20-00-0020
Harden35:405-116-61-45219
Collison16:561-30-02-4132
Fisher28:484-70-01-43411
Cook4:441-20-00-0112
Aldrich4:441-10-00-1002
Hayward4:441-20-00-2012
Ivey3:012-20-00-0006
Totals24036-8723-2610-381929106

Percentages: FG .414, FT .885. Three-Point Goals: 11-28, .393 (Durant 3-6, Fisher 3-6, Harden 3-8, Ivey 2-2, Sefolosha 0-1, Westbrook 0-5). Team Rebounds: 11. Team Turnovers: 13 (29 PTS). Blocked Shots: 3 (Ibaka 2, Durant). Turnovers: 13 (Durant 7, Harden 3, Westbrook 2, Perkins). Steals: 7 (Durant 2, Harden 2, Westbrook 2, Perkins). Flagrant Fouls: Fisher, 4:46 third.

MiamiMINFG-AFT-AOR-TRAFPt
James44:099-198-94-1113226
Battier28:424-80-00-41411
Bosh34:259-145-50-70124
Chalmers33:563-62-21-27310
Wade34:407-126-92-83420
Miller23:147-112-20-50423
Haslem10:340-11-21-1111
Cole16:401-40-00-1023
Jones4:370-10-00-0000
Howard3:010-10-00-0000
Turiaf3:010-00-00-1000
Harris3:010-03-40-1003
Totals24040-7727-338-412521121

Percentages: FG .519, FT .818. Three-Point Goals: 14-26, .538 (Miller 7-8, Battier 3-7, Chalmers 2-4, Bosh 1-1, Cole 1-2, Jones 0-1, James 0-3). Team Rebounds: 7. Team Turnovers: 14 (15 PTS). Blocked Shots: 7 (Wade 3, Bosh 2, James 2). Turnovers: 13 (James 6, Chalmers 4, Battier, Jones, Wade). Steals: 8 (Chalmers 2, Wade 2, Battier, Bosh, James, Miller).

Oklahoma City26232235106
Miami31283626121

Att.—20,003 (19,600). T—2:41.

Officials—Dan Crawford, Monty McCutchen, Derrick Stafford.

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