Heat forward Mike Miller, 32, begins each game by hanging onto a rim to stretch out his back. Heat forward Shane Battier, 34, runs little sprints before the second half, loosening up, but also looking like he’s trying to trot off an injury.
What Miller stretched throughout Thursday’s Game 5 were Heat leads with his three-point shooting. Battier kept doing that thing where he pops up to be as opportunistically helpful as Thing in The Addams Family — a rebound here, a three-pointer there, taking a charge or two.
Miller got a standing ovation from the continuously-howling American Airlines Arena crowd when he slowly dragged himself off the floor, replaced by Battier with 4:50 left in the game.
Appropriate that they replaced each other a few times Thursday. Their superior role playing went a long way to turning Game 5 into the kind of rout the first four games occasionally threatened to be, but weren’t.
Oh, and, like their younger, more celebrated and maligned headband-wearing teammate, they got to celebrate their first NBA title.
Miller ended with 23 points on seven of 11 shooting from the field, all seven from three-point range, tying a franchise playoff record set by Damon Jones against the Nets in 2005. Battier ended with 11 points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal and one charge drawn in 28:42.
As a team, the Heat buried 14 three-pointers, one short of the Heat playoff record of 15, against Atlanta in 2009.
The Heat ended the first half up 59-49 after Miller rolled up 12 points, all on three-pointers. Meanwhile, Battier came down with four rebounds, all on the defensive end, as the Heat turned the Thunder’s stretch of frigid shooting into one-and-done possessions.
Though Battier picked up only five first half points, his layup might’ve been the most indicative moment of the night. He drove on and over — almost literally — Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant despite giving away (officially) one inch, 10 pounds and 10 years.
And in the second half, two guys who you’d sometimes swear are old enough to have fired the first three-pointers after the old American Basketball Association created the shot, helped bury the Thunder’s hopes.
Battier nailed a three-pointer that, along with Mario Chalmers three-pointer on the previous possession, helped stem a third quarter Thunder run and turn 61-56 into 67-56. Another three from Battier pushed the Heat lead out of single digits and ignited a 16-1 run that Miller’s three-pointer closed. When that went down, the Heat bulge was 88-63 and you could almost imagine the late Howard Cosell roaring, “Down goes the Thunder! Down goes the Thunder!”
Or, you might’ve imagined it after Miller opened the fourth quarter scoring with another three that blew the lead out to 27 at 98-71.
Ball game. Season. Championship.