LeBron James walked to the free-throw line with 16.2 seconds left and spread his arms outward to silence the crowd.
He wanted it quiet in his house. He needed total concentration. In unison, thousands of people made that shushing sound we all remember from elementary school. The din diminished. Still, James missed the first foul shot. The arena gasped.
James stepped back to the line, exhaled and made his second foul shot to give the Heat a four-point lead. Finally, it was enough. Survival. Russell Westbrook missed a three-point attempt moments later and the Heat held on for a 91-85 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Heat now leads the best-of-7 series 2-1 with Games 4 and 5 at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday and Thursday. The Heat can win the series with two more victories at home.
It was fitting that the most memorable moment of the game came from the free-throw line. The Heat spent enough time there. Led by Dwyane Wade, the Heat was 31 of 35 from the foul line. Wade, who finished with 25 points and was masterful in the second half playing every second, was 9 of 11 from the line.
The Heat made 25 of its final 27 free-throw attempts and won despite shooting 37.8 percent from the floor.
We know when were aggressive were a tough team to beat, said Heat forward Chris Bosh, who was 4 of 4 from the line and scored 10 points to go along with 11 rebounds. We want to put pressure on the rim and we want to attack. For the past two games, its really been working out for us.
Wade had 14 points in the second half, including nine in the third quarter when the Thunder took a double-digit lead and threatened to pull away. Still, another inexplicable turnover by Wade late in the game nearly cost the Heat. Wade also had a near costly turnover late in Game 2.
Miami led 86-81 with two minutes to play when Oklahoma City reserve Thabo Sefolosha stripped Wade in the open court. Sefolosha finished the play with a dunk in transition and, after a missed jumper by Wade, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook stroked a clutch basket to cut the Heats lead to 86-85 with 1:30 to play.
Bosh, back in the starting lineup for the second straight game, preserved the Heats three-point lead with a strong move inside and a pair of free throws. Bosh finished with his second consecutive Finals double-double.
Westbrook had a chance to tie the game with 30 seconds to play but missed an open three-point attempt. Westbrook finished with 19 points, going 8 of 18 from the field, but had just six points after halftime. Westbrook didnt play the final five minutes of the third quarter, watching from the bench as the Heat came back from a 10-point deficit.
James once again led the Heat in scoring, finishing with 29 points on 11 of 23 shooting. He was 6 of 8 from the foul line to go along with 14 rebounds and three assists. Game 3 was just the second time since the beginning of the Eastern Conference Finals that James was held to under 30 points.
Thunder star Kevin Durant was limited to 25 points on 11 of 19 shooting. He was just 2 of 4 from the foul line. The Thunder, known for its free-throw shooting, was 15 of 24 from the line in its first road Finals game in franchise history.
We led the league in free-throw shooting percentage, Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. We missed some free throws tonight.