NBA Finals: Miami Heat bury Oklahoma City for NBA championship win
MVP James finally wins his title as Heat put away Thunder.
Published: June 23, 2012 05:19PM
Updated: September 11, 2012 11:37PM
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Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka (9) from Republic of Congo and Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) react during the first half at Game 5 of the NBA finals basketball series, Thursday, June 21, 2012, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI • The decision is final: LeBron James made the right call coming to Miami.

Finally an NBA champion, it’s all worth it now.

James had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, and got the kind of help that was worth leaving home for, leading the Heat in a 121-106 rout of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night to win the NBA Finals in five games.

Best player in the game, best team in the league.

James has found it all since taking his talents to South Beach.

“It means everything,” James said moments after the win. “I made a difficult decision to leave Cleveland but I understood what my future was about ... I knew we had a bright future (in Miami). This is a dream come true for me. This is definitely when it pays off.”

He left the game along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for good with 3:01 remaining for a round of hugs and the start for a celebration he’s been waiting for since arriving in the NBA out of high school as the No. 1 pick of the 2003 draft.

James hopped up and down in the final minutes, shared a long hug with opponent Kevin Durant, and watched the confetti rain down from the rafters.

The Heat took control in the second quarter, briefly lost it and blew it open again in the third behind their role players, James content to pass to wide-open 3-point shooters while the Thunder focused all their attention on him.

Bosh and Wade, the other members of the Big Three who sat alongside James as he promised titles at his Miami welcoming party two summers ago, both had strong games. Bosh, who broke down in tears as the Heat left their own court after losing Game 6 last year, finished with 24 points and Wade scored 20. The Heat also got a huge boost from Mike Miller, who made seven 3-pointers and scored 23 points.

The disappointment of losing to Dallas in six games last year vanished in a blowout of the demoralized Thunder, who got 32 points and 11 rebounds from Durant.

That made it easier for James, the most heavily scrutinized player in the league since his departure from Cleveland, when he announced he was “taking his talents to South Beach” on a TV special called “The Decision” that was criticized everywhere from talk shows and water coolers straight to the commissioner’s office. James has said he wishes he handled things differently, but few who watched the Cavaliers fail to assemble championship talent around him could have argued with his desire to depart.

He found in Miami a team where he never had to do it alone — though he reminded everyone during his sensational postseason run that he still could when necessary. He got support whenever he needed it in this series, from Shane Battier’s 17 points in Game 2 to Mario Chalmers’ 25 in Game 4.

In the clincher it was Miller, banged-up from so many recent injuries that he practically limps from the bench to scorer’s table when he checks in. He made his fourth 3-pointer of the half right before James’ fast-break basket capped a 15-2 run that extended Miami’s lead to 53-36 with 4:42 remaining in the first half. James had 15 points, five rebounds and five assists at halftime, with the Heat ahead 59-49.

Durant added 11 rebounds for the Thunder, who made a remarkably early trip to the NBA Finals just three years after starting 3-29. With Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden all 23 or younger, the Thunder have the pieces in place for a lengthy stay atop the Western Conference.

But their inexperience showed in this series, a few questionable decisions, possessions and outright mistakes costing them in their franchise’s first playoff appearance since Seattle lost to Chicago in 1996. Westbrook scored 19 but shot only 4 of 20, unable to come up with anything close to his 43-point outing in Game 4, and Harden finished a miserable series with 19.

Nothing they done could have stopped James, anyway.

Appearing fully over the cramps that forced him to sit out the end of Game 4, he was back to his dominant self, a combination of strength and speed that is practically unmatched in the game — and rarely seen in the history of it.

Wade skipped to each side of the court before the opening tip with arms up to pump up the fans, then James showed them nothing wrong with his legs, throwing down an emphatic fast-break dunk to open the scoring. He made consecutive baskets while being fouled, showing no expression after the second, as if he’d hardly even known he was hit. Drawing so much attention from the Thunder, he started finding his wide-open shooters, and the Heat built a nine-point lead before going to the second up 31-26.

Oklahoma City got back within five early in the third before consecutive 3-pointers by Chalmers and Battier triggered a 27-7 burst that made it 88-63 on another 3-pointer by Miller. James didn’t even score in the run until it was almost over, hitting a pair of free throws after he was flagrantly fouled by Derek Fisher while powering toward the basket.

Gone was the tentative player who was mocked for shrinking on the big stage last year, too willing to defer to others who didn’t possess half his talents. This time, he was at peace off the court and on attack on it, vowing to have no regrets and playing in such a way they wouldn’t be necessary.

James promised multiple titles at his welcoming party, and the Heat have three pieces to build around. Pat Riley will have to fill some holes on the roster, but will likely find some players eager to come to Miami for the good weather and great chance to win.

Miller was one of them last year, and though injuries have ruined his effectiveness, his shooting turned this into the only blowout of the series after Miami had outscored Oklahoma City by just 389-384 over the first four games.

Notes: Miami became the third team to sweep the middle three games at home in the 2-3-2 format. The Detroit Pistons took all three from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004 before the Heat did it against Dallas in 2006. ... Coach Erik Spoelstra tied Riley for the Heat franchise record with his 34th postseason win. He is 34-22, while Riley was just 34-36. ... The four-game losing streak that Oklahoma City finished the season with was its longest of the season. The Thunder had dropped three straight games to Memphis, Miami and Indiana from April 2-6.

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Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

NBA champions

2011-12 • Miami Heat

2010-11 • Dallas Mavericks

2009-10 • Los Angeles Lakers

2008-09 • L.A. Lakers

2007-08 • Boston Celtics

2006-07 • San Antonio Spurs

2005-06 • Miami Heat

2004-05 • San Antonio Spurs

2003-04 • Detroit Pistons

2002-03 • San Antonio Spurs

2001-02 • Los Angeles Lakers

2000-01 • L.A. Lakers

1999-00 • Los Angeles Lakers

1998-99 • San Antonio Spurs

1997-98 • Chicago Bulls

1996-97 • Chicago Bulls

1995-96 • Chicago Bulls

1994-95 • Houston Rockets

1993-94 • Houston Rockets

1992-93 • Chicago Bulls

1991-92 • Chicago Bulls

1990-91 • Chicago Bulls

1989-90 • Detroit Pistons

1988-89 • Detroit Pistons

1987-88 • Los Angeles Lakers

1986-87 • Los Angeles Lakers

1985-86 • Boston Celtics

1984-85 • Los Angeles Lakers

1983-84 • Boston Celtics

1982-83 • Philadelphia 76ers

1981-82 • Los Angeles Lakers

1980-81 • Boston Celtics

1979-80 • Los Angeles Lakers

1978-79 • Seattle SuperSonics

1977-78 • Washington Bullets

1976-77 • Portland Trail Blazers

1975-76 • Boston Celtics

1974-75 • Golden St. Warriors

1973-74 • Boston Celtics

1972-73 • New York Knicks

1971-72 • Los Angeles Lakers

1970-71 • Milwaukee Bucks

1969-70 • New York Knicks

1968-69 • Boston Celtics

1967-68 • Boston Celtics

1966-67 • Philadelphia 76ers

1965-66 • Boston Celtics

1964-65 • Boston Celtics

1963-64 • Boston Celtics

1962-63 • Boston Celtics

1961-62 • Boston Celtics

1960-61 • Boston Celtics

1959-60 • Boston Celtics

1958-59 • Boston Celtics

1957-58 • St. Louis Hawks

1956-57 • Boston Celtics

1955-56 • Phila. Warriors

1954-55 • Syracuse Nationals

1953-54 • Minneapolis Lakers

1952-53 • Minneapolis Lakers

1951-52 • Minneapolis Lakers

1950-51 • Rochester Royals

1949-50 • Minneapolis Lakers

1948-49 • Minneapolis Lakers

1947-48 • Baltimore Bullets

1946-47 • Phila. Warriors

NBA Finals MVPs

2012 • LeBron James, Miami

2011 • Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas

2010 • Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers

2009 • Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers

2008 • Paul Pierce, Boston

2007 • Tony Parker, San Antonio

2006 • Dwyane Wade, Miami

2005 • Tim Duncan, San Antonio

2004 • Chauncey Billups, Detroit

2003 • Tim Duncan, San Antonio

2002 • Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers

2001 • Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers

2000 • Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers

1999 • Tim Duncan, San Antonio

1998 • Michael Jordan, Chicago

1997 • Michael Jordan, Chicago

1996 • Michael Jordan, Chicago

1995 • Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston

1994 • Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston

1993 • Michael Jordan, Chicago

1992 • Michael Jordan, Chicago

1991 • Michael Jordan, Chicago

1990 • Isiah Thomas, Detroit

1989 • Joe Dumars, Detroit

1988 • James Worthy, L.A. Lakers

1987 • Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers

1986 • Larry Bird, Boston

1985 • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, L.A. Lakers

1984 • Larry Bird, Boston

1983 • Moses Malone, Philadelphia

1982 • Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers

1981 • Cedric Maxwell, Boston

1980 • Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers

1979 • Dennis Johnson, Seattle

1978 • Wes Unseld, Washington

1977 • Bill Walton, Portland

1976 • Jo Jo White, Boston

1975 • Rick Barry, Golden State

1974 • John Havlicek, Boston

1973 • Willis Reed, New York

1972 • Wilt Chamberlain, L.A. Lakers

1971 • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee

1970 • Willis Reed, New York

1969 • Jerry West, L.A. Lakers

Storylines

R Miami’s LeBron James posts a triple-double in the series clincher, giving him his first NBA title.

• The Heat go on a 34-13 run in the second half to put the game out of reach.

• Chris Bosh and Mike Miller score 23 points, and Dwyane Wade adds 20 for Miami.