The American Airlines Arena has three flames burning bright. Heat takes the tip-off sending Chris Bosh to the rim. Kevin Durant responds with 2. Oklahoma is shooting and defending. The Heat has not yet gotten in the zone. Durant nearly loses control of the ball. “Hey, guys, get that ball.” Tight defense on the Heat and Westbrook’s 3 for 3 puts Oklahoma up 13-3. LeBron gets his own rebound and puts it back (13-5). Westbrook hits his 4th triple (15-5). “Oh boy.” Wade goes to the rim where he meets Serge Ibaka with a block and goal tend. A slam by the Thunder goes the other way, then Wade with a quick pass to LeBron under the rim at other end adds 2 (15-10). there is a chill in the Arena as the Thunder out-hustles the Heat. Bosh cuts to the basket (17-12). Heat’s ball is stolen but Chalmers gets a block then hustles back down to the other end to put a stop to Durant’s shot. Wade inside is blocked by Collison who is playing ball like his life depends on this game (21-12). Heat spends a little too much time being upset over no-calls (23-12 Q1 3:17) Wade is sweating. Norris Cole makes it through the defense for a lay up (27-14). Bosh tips in 2 (29-16). Durant throws 3 but Miller out jumps for the rebounds. After a 24-second violation, Durant scoots through the back door for 2. Cole hits 3 as Q1 comes to an end. Thunder lead 33-19.
Q2 Fisher gets striped by Norris Cole. Jump ball. The ref bounces and bounces and bounces, Hey, come on already. Will you throw the ball up and quit jerking us around.” Thunder gains 2, LeBron adds 2. Now a steal and pass to Wade at the other end quickly sheds 7 off the Thunder’s lead (33-27). Sefolosha hustles to block a Heat lay up, sending the ball out-of-bounds (33-26). James Jones hits 3 with fans are shooting, “Let’s Go Heat.”(33-29). Chalmers gets to the basket and draws a foul to make it a 2-point game. Westbrook hits the first 2 points in Q2. Wade hits 3 to tie the score 35-35. The house is on fire shouting, “Defense.” Wade goes up but Serge Ibaka blocks. Wade hits the floor on his back, I can feel his pain as he slowly gets up, while the Thunder gains 2 at the other end. The points hurt more than the fall. Chalmers gets warmed up hitting 3 (40-38). Chalmers picks up a 3rd foul and goes to the bench with 6 minutes in Q2. Ibaka’s shot goes in and out with Wade all over him. LeBron at the top of the lane goes in with his shoulder down then leaps up to the rim and adds 2 (41-40). Harden is wide open for 3. He misses but gets his own rebound, then misses again. Bosh dives to the floor after the ball, Ibaka crashes on top as Bosh calls a time out. Bosh climbs off the floor, but he comes back and explodes to the rim. Durant drives to the rim sending Bosh to the floor. After a race around in circles Westbrook pulls up with the shot clock winding down and hits 2. LeBron spins pass Sefolosha and gets to the rim (45-44). Sefolosha’s shot slowly rims out but Westbrook flies in to put it back, then hangs from the rim. Wade off the baseline gets his 10th point (47-46). Thunder holds a 3-point lead at the half (49-46).
Q3 Wade goes to the line and 2. Bodies are flying. Chalmers attempts 3, the rebound goes to LeBron then back to Wade for 2 to give Miami the lead (49-50). Sefolosha is wide open but misses 3. Durant, off-center picks up his 2nd foul. Bosh drives in but gets hit by an ambush team. He gives Miami a lead from the line (54-55). Wade pulls up on a jumper sending Miami back up 1 (56-57). Tangled up Ibaka takes LeBron to the floor, but LeBron gets up and goes straight to the rim (60-59). At the line Wade puts Miami up 60-61. Bodies are all over the place. Chalmers hits a 3 from half-way down the block. Yeah. (60-64). Westbrook gives LeBron an 8th rebound. Serge Ibaka, illegal screen on the baseline sends the Thunder’s ball to the Heat. Chalmers drops a high arking 3 (60-66). Thunder responds with 2. When Harden gets fouled on Wade’s fake, frowns of frustration show on the faces of the Thunders bench. Under the rim Wade gets ambushed but passes to Battier outside the line for 3. Dead on target, Durant responds (68-71 Q3 3:22). Fisher knocks down LeBron but goes down with him - slow getting up. Where’s that Thunder? LeBron gives Miami its largest lead of the night (68-75 2:20 Q3). The Heat has had its moments of frustration at the calls, now the Thunder is breaking down over no- calls. Westbrook is hot, but not this time. He drives to the basket but it doesn’t go. Harden picks up his 4th foul sending LeBron to the line (72-77). The Thunder’s 6th turnover allows LeBron to give the Heat its largest lead of the night.
Q4 Harden steals but Wade with a rebound allows Chalmers to deposit 3 (79-82). The house explodes when Chalmers comes right back and hits another 3, then rolls in a floater for 2. Westbrook is hot responding to everything the Heat shoots. (83-87). Wade pulls up giving Miami a 7-point lead. Westbrook answers (85-90 Q4 7:01). Westbrook with the last 11 points for the Thunder closes the Heat’s lead to 2 (88-90). Blocking Westbrook, Wade gets a foul and Westbrook ties the score (90-90 6:02). One rebound away from a triple double, LeBron’s leg is not responding as he dribbles down to the floor, cramping with pain. At the other end Wade blocks and sends the ball back to LeBron. Keeping his eye on the prize, while his body is in pain LeBron throws up and banks 2, then goes to the bench in excruciating pain. Five minutes remain in Q4. The Heat lead by 2 (90-92). LeBron, limps back into the game and drives 3 to give Maim a 3-point lead (94-97). On a crucial play, Durant loses the ball to the Heat. Wade makes a power drive to the basket giving the Heat a 5-point lead (94-99). Again on a crucial play, Durant misses. Flying out-of-bounds, Wade pushes the ball to Bosh, but Westbrook intercepts and lays it in (96-99). On a past from Wade to Bosh, Durant draws a foul (1:20 95-99). LeBron is moving slow, in clear pain, but the DNA of a champion, LeBron’s heart is determined and his mind says go. Chalmers gets inside against 3 defenders and banks 2 with 44 seconds. That brings relief to LeBron’s pain. LeBron is down but Chalmers steps up. That’s what team work is all about. Westbrook makes a final drive leaving the Thunder down 3 (98-101). Haslem forces a jump ball. Bounce, bounce, “O, boy, here we go again.” The jump ball goes in favor of the Heat. LeBron James sits rocking on the floor as Chalmers steps up and delivers. Miami walks away with a 3-game lead. Final score 98-104.
There is no question that LeBron James has the DNA of a champion. But for most champions, the first major win is always the hardest. The biggest challenge is not the lack of practice or experience. The greatest opponent is the one within. It’s that little voice from the past, asking, “Are you ready?” It gets in the way. Cramps might be a sign of dehydration, needing fluids or magnesium, too much uric acid in the body, but why now?