MIAMI - A case of leg cramps did what the Oklahoma City Thunder have yet to accomplish in four games of the NBA Finals: stop LeBron James.
Despite having to watch the final minute from the bench, the Miami Heat were able to secure a 104-98 victory that gave them a 3-1 lead and within touching distance of claiming the best-of-seven championship series.
|Miami Heat forward LeBron James is helped by teammates and trainers after being injured in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder during Game 4 of the NBA basketball finals in Miami, Florida, June 19, 2012. Photo by Mike Segar, Reuters.
"It's a big-time team win," said James, who still led Miami with 26 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists. "We needed everyone's effort, and everyone came up and made a play."
James crumpled to the floor in pain from the cramping with a little more than five minutes remaining when Miami led 92-90.
About a minute later, he re-entered the game with a noticeable limp but was able to hit a three-pointer to break a 94-94 tie and give the Heat a lead would they never relinquish.
"I was able to drain that three and give us a lift," he said. "I was just trying to make a play. I wanted to try to make a play with the limited mobility I had at that time, and I was happy I was able to come through."
Two minutes later, James was again forced to the bench and watched as Miami prevailed in a tense finish.
"It was very frustrating because I'm a competitor and I want to be out there to help my team," James added. "But it's a team game. When someone goes down for any reason, guys step up."
James said everybody chipped in for the victory that put the three-time league MVP one step closer to a first NBA crown.
"We needed everyone's effort. From the starters to Rio's (Mario Chalmers) spectacular game, to Norris (Cole), as well," said James, citing Chalmers, who scored 25 points including 12 in the last quarter, and Cole, who made two key three-pointers.
"You know, it's a big-time team win, and we needed every point, we needed every rebound and everything that everyone had to get it."
James said he was feeling better, no doubt buoyed by the win that put them so close to erasing the disappointment of last year's six-game loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the championship series.
"I'm feeling good," he said. (Editing by John O'Brien)