Now its 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 were going to win this game its 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.
Boshs 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 Heats 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 didnt get here without him. Dwyanes fine. Hes still our guy. Lay off Dwyane.
Noted the Thunders Kendrick Perkins accurately: The scary thing is he always bounces back..
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.