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A three-Heated title in Miami

LeBron James has a triple-double and gets a lot of help from his teammates as the Heat defeats the Thunder for the fourth game in a row, 121-106.

June 21, 2012|By Ben Bolch

MIAMI — LeBron James was in no hurry as he walked off the court in the final minutes, raising his right arm in triumph.

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were not far behind, the Miami Heat trio hugging teammates and coaches along the sideline.

Bosh, who had wept in a hallway after last year's NBA Finals, held Udonis Haslem in a firm embrace, swaying back and forth. James playfully nudged Coach Erik Spoelstra.

Five years of Finals anguish ended for James on Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena when Miami routed the Oklahoma City Thunder, 121-106, in Game 5 to capture its first championship since 2006. It was also the Heat's first title since James and Bosh joined the team as free agents in the summer of 2010.

"I dreamed about this opportunity, this moment for a long time, including last night, including today," James said as the nine-year NBA veteran sat on a stage flanked by the Larry O'Brien Trophy and the award he won for being selected the series' most valuable player. "My dream has become a reality now and it's the best feeling I've ever had."

The Heat won the series, four games to one, against a Thunder team that went from precocious to bumbling, hardly resembling the bunch that lost only three games in its first three playoff series.

For James, it was a victory that will presumably lessen some of the ache he has endured since Finals flops in 2007 with the Cleveland Cavaliers and last year with the Heat.

"It's about damn time," James told the crowd when asked what went through his mind after winning his long-awaited title.

James continually attacked the basket from the opening tip and was superb in every facet, collecting a triple-double with 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds. Bosh scored 24 points and Wade, one of only two holdovers from the Heat's other championship team, had 20.

Miami got it done with the Big Three and with a flurry of smaller ones, making 14 of 26 three-pointers. Mike Miller was a stunningly effective sharpshooter, making seven of eight shots from beyond the arc.

The veteran guard who has been hobbled all season by an assortment of injuries finished with 23 points, nearly tripling his combined eight points from the four previous games.

"I'm just glad they didn't take me back to the barn and put me down," said Miller, who is contemplating retirement.

He opened the fourth quarter with consecutive three-pointers, extending Miami's cushion to 27 points.

Game, series, season, Heat.

Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sat out the game's final 4 minutes 43 seconds, with Durant draping a towel around his head as if it might somehow block out the scene unfolding around him.

"It just hurts to go out like this," said Durant, who had 32 points, making 13 of 24 shots. "We made it to the Finals, which was cool for us. But we didn't want to just make it there. Unfortunately, we lost. It's tough."

The Thunder never put together anything approaching a complete game in the series, falling behind big in three games and failing to make the plays it needed in the fourth quarters of the other two.

Part of the problem was that the Thunder never received much offensive production from anyone besides Westbrook and Durant. Westbrook fell far short of his 43-point brilliance from Game 4, finishing with 19 points on four-for-20 shooting.

James Harden tallied most of his 19 points after the outcome had been decided, a fitting end to a series in which he struggled with his shooting touch and was a non-factor.

Even with a festive atmosphere along Biscayne Boulevard before the game, most of the notoriously late-arriving Heat fans were in their seats well before tipoff. Wade ran over to each side of the court, raising his arms aloft to exhort the crowd.

The party was just getting started. James made sure of it.

"To be here, man, and see him get his first championship, I'm so happy for him," Wade said. "I don't know if I could be happier for another guy, another man to succeed in life as I am for him."

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