In My Opinion

Miami Heat turns negative into positive with Game 2 win over Thunder

America’s Team is already taken, so it might be time to nominate the Heat as Adversity’s Team. Probably a better fit, anyway, considering the way most of America feels about Miami — and the way this team is using negativity as a springboard in these playoffs.

Miami on Thursday night turned the NBA Finals back in its favor and gave itself a fighting chance to become the first team in league history to win a championship after trailing in (as LeBron James might put it) not one, not two, but three playoff series.

The Heat offset an opening loss here in a dramatic, hang-on-for-dear-life 100-96 Game 2 triumph over Oklahoma City to level the series heading back to Miami for three consecutive games starting Sunday night. The Finals segues now from the Thunder dome to the bedlam of Bayside with Heat hopes immeasurably higher than just two days earlier.

Miami could win its second franchise championship on the home wood with a sweep of the next three games, but, after the first two here, a bet on that likelihood might not be fiscally wise.

Miami frittered away as much as a 17-point lead to see OKC draw within three points with 1:47 left and within two in the final minute, but the Heat desperately held on.

Hey, anybody say this would be easy?

The Big 3 was just that for Miami as Chris Bosh started for the first time in exactly one month, after four games off the bench, and chipped in 16 points with a huge 15 rebounds. (Welcome back, Big Bird). LeBron was LeBron, with 32 points (though only six in the frantic fourth quarter). And a more aggressive (and accurate) Dwyane Wade rebounded from a poor Game 1 with 24 points.

The lesson here is that every result in a seven-game playoff series can refashion its entire context, turning gloom into glee or the opposite.

The greater lesson is that every time you are inclined to write off these Heaters they grab the pencil from you (the one with the big eraser) and take over the rewrite.

Something in this team’s DNA triggers when it is discounted, mocked or lambasted — when the autopsy is started before the body is even cold.

Nobody plays better put-upon. No team more than this one can process anger or doubt into high-octane fuel.

“When our backs are against the wall,” as James said, “we seem to respond. We enjoy that challenge.”

Of course the entire narrative changes into one of collapse and calamity if Miami did NOT hang on, but that’s the thing. Whether by rallying or hanging on, a four-point win is a four-point win.

The game ended with Thunder fans cat-calling the referees for perceived impartiality against their team. It was the sound of fans unaccustomed to losing at home, and unable to fathom theirs was not the best team this night.

The sound down in South Florida? It had to be equal parts jubilation and exhales of plain relief.

Heat fans should be used to the wild ride by now, though, right?

Remember when the Heat trailed the Pacers two games to one heading back to Indiana? After Dwyane Wade’s ugly sideline tirade against coach Erik Spoelstra made Miami seem like a team ripping at the seams? Winning and advancing ensued.

Remember when the Heat were pushed to the edge of elimination, trailing the Celtics three games to two heading back to Boston? And how panic and bitter disappointment roiled across South Florida? Winning and advancing ensued.

Now it’s the Finals. Higher stakes and earlier in the series, but the same story: The Heat quelling the anxiety back with an enormously essential, impressive victory.

Barely, in this case.

Miami led by as many as 17 and led by 55-43 at halftime after limiting the Thunder to 34 percent shooting early on. A scorching first quarter sparked the half, with Miami out to leads of 18-2 and 25-8, stunning the packed arena.

“If we’re going to win this game it’s going to be on the defensive end,” Wade had said at the half.

Instead they won this game with clutch playoffs in the chaotic final minute to avert what would have been — and at times seemed likely to be — one of the most notorious collapses in South Florida sports history.

Bosh’s dunk off a Wade assist with 53.8 seconds left was enormous. James’ rebound, wrapped up with both arms, sealed it with 7.1 seconds on the clock.

Credit Spoelstra as well for some of his adjustments from Game 1, because much of what went wrong Tuesday went right two nights later.

Miami was beaten up badly on the fast break in the opener, outscored 22-4, but Thursday it was a negligible 11-10 OKC edge as the Heat got back much better on defense.

Miami also enjoyed a hugely better presence in the paint after being denied access much of Game 1. Points in the paint swung in the Heat’s favor, 48-32.

The onus was on Wade entering this game, and he was equal to it.. He had shot under 50 percent in his past six playoff games and scored fewer than 20 in five of those, including Game1 here. Slow starts and lousy first halves had become a tattoo of his postseason. A volume of criticism normally reserved for LeBron fell upon him.

“You all need to get off Dwyane, man,” teammate Udonis Haslem had said, scolding media members in his defense. “We didn’t get here without him. Dwyane’s fine. He’s still our guy. Lay off Dwyane.”

Noted the Thunder’s Kendrick Perkins — accurately: “The scary thing is he always bounces back.”.

Adversity’s Team.

The Heat has trailed in each of the past three playoff series and then won the next game.

But hanging on to win Thursday night after what nearly was a monumental collapse — that might have amounted to the biggest adversity of all to survive.

Read more Basketball stories from the Miami Herald

 <span class="cutline_leadin">An easier time:</span> Chris Bosh, left, and his Heat teammates rejoice after winning the second game of last season’s first-round playoff series against the Bucks. They said the Bobcats are a bigger test.

    Series preview

    Miami Heat expects dogfight from Bobcats

    Even if the Heat appears to be in a different class than the Bobcats, the players aren’t preparing as though they are

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, left, and center Chris Bosh watch from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wednesday, April 16, 2014 in Miami. The 76ers defeated the Heat 100-87.


    Greg Cote: Dynasty or dismantling for the Miami Heat?

    A Heat playoff run is the annual gift we slowly unwrap together, our two-month emotional thrill ride ever since LeBron James grandly announced he was “taking my talents to South Beach” that summer night in 2010. Well, buckle up again, South Florida. Prepare for exhilarating highs and work-productivity lows. Prepare for late nights walking drained from the downtown bayside arena. Prepare for hearts to soar or plunge on whether a basketball swishes through a nylon net or bonks off a painted rim.

Michael Jordan talks to the media about his becoming the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats at the Time Warner Cable Arena March 18, 2010 in Charlotte, N.C.

    Royal Rumble | LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan

    Comparisons between LeBron James, Michael Jordan inevitable in Heat-Bobcats series

    Although LeBron James and Michael Jordan won’t be on the court doing battle, the playoff series offers an opportunity to compare and contrast two of the NBA’s greatest ambassadors.

Get your Miami Heat Fan Gear!

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category