LeBron James had 48 points and the game was tied and he made the right decision.
It’s the unquantifiable things that have made the biggest impact for the Heat during this multi-year run of greatness, and that run continued on Monday at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Double-teamed with time running off the shot clock, James kicked a pass to the perimeter and then another pass by Mario Chalmers found Chris Bosh wide open in the corner. Bosh swished it with 57 seconds left, the Heat won 102-96 and the two-time defending NBA champions are now one victory away from advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the fourth year in a row.
“He just showed great poise and trust to make the right play, and it’s just a basketball play that he just feels, and he just got off it without thinking about the consequences,” Spoelstra said of James passing up the most important shot of the game. “That’s what makes him unique.”
That the ball found Bosh for the biggest basket of the game was a testament to the Heat’s level of trust at this point in the journey. Bosh missed a pair of three-pointers with the score tied at 94, and the Heat called timeout with 1:15 remaining after Joe Johnson missed a fadeaway that would have put the Nets ahead.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra drew up a play with Bosh in the corner and he was wide open. The Heat’s center had his shot at redemption and didn’t miss.
“We knew LeBron was going to roll, and I work on that shot tirelessly,” Bosh said.
Said Spoelstra: “That’s right in his wheelhouse, the corner one, and the swing-swing three is his very best one.”
Added James: “As soon as it got to Rio, I knew it would be good from C.B.”
James finished with 49 points, played every minute of the second half and most of the arena’s fans remained in the building to see if he could get 50. James went to the foul line with less than two seconds remaining, and the building groaned with exasperation after his missed the second of two foul shots.
“That was the first time I’ve been disappointed in myself in a win,” James said of missing his final free throw.
James was 16 of 24 from the field, 3 of 6 from three-point range and 14 of 19 from the free-throw line in his best performance of the 2014 NBA playoffs. He also had six rebounds and two assists. Spoelstra asked James if he needed a break during the fourth quarter, and James said he didn’t know if his coach “was serious or not.”
“What I told him I cannot say again,” James said. “I wanted to finish out the game.”
James missed an 18-foot step-back jumper with 17 seconds left, but Dwyane Wade came down with a key offensive rebound to extend the possession. Ray Allen then made a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left to give the Heat a five-point lead.
“I’m always down underneath the basket and I go for the offensive rebound a lot, and you don’t get it most of the game, and then you finally get in the right position at the right time,” Wade said. “I saw that the shot would be short, and I just ran to where I thought the ball would bounce to at that point, and luckily it bounced right to my hand.”
Wade finished the game with 15 points, going 7 of 13 from the field. Bosh had 12 points and was 2 of 6 from three-point range. Allen had 11 points and Chalmers had eight points and seven assists. The Heat shot 52.9 percent from the field and held the Nets to 43.6 percent shooting. Brooklyn was 5 of 22 from three-point range after connecting on 15 three-pointers in Game 3.
“This is the Miami Heat,” Wade said. “We respond and we own up to not playing as well as we can, and I thought we did that tonight.”
The Heat now leads the best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinals 3-1 and close out the series with a victory on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Johnson led the Nets with 18 points and Paul Pierce had 16 points.
The Heat started the fourth quarter with a 79-76 lead, but a dunk by Pierce a minute into the period gave the Nets their first lead since the second period. From that point until the final minute, the game had the feel of a postseason classic.
Brooklyn went ahead 86-84 on a layup by Shaun Livingston and the Nets held the lead until Bosh knocked down a clutch three-pointer from the break to give the Heat an 89-87 lead. Barclays Center let out a loud groan after the basket, but the apprehensive arena burst to its feet with a wave of noise when Pierce went inside on Wade for a three-point play with 4:25 left.
The field goal and foul shot gave the Nets a 90-89 lead, but James drilled a three-pointer to put the Heat back ahead.
The Nets trailed 56-49 at halftime, but closed that gap with a 7-0 run midway through the third quarter. The crowd began its metronomic chant of “Brooook-lyn, Brooook-lyn” after a three-pointer by Johnson with 6:27 left in the period. That’s when James kicked it into high gear.
The four-time MVP scored 12 consecutive points for the Heat over a six-minute stretch, and that run included a muscular layup with 4:15 left in the third to put the Heat back ahead 72-69. It the field goal gave James 37 points on 18 shots and, perhaps to let the Nets know he was making easy work of their defenders inside the paint, James playfully skipped his feet a few times as Nets coach Jason Kidd called timeout.
James remained in the game following the timeout and made 1 of 2 free throws to extend the Heat’s lead by four points. Allen made his first three-pointer of the game to give the Heat a 76-71 lead.
“We wanted to answer the call as far as challenges are concerned,” Bosh said. “It was a big win on the road, and in order for us to win another championship we’re going to have to win on the road a bunch.”