Heat responds, knots NBA Finals at 2

SAN ANTONIO — Miami Heat owner Micky Arison had a message as he walked to the winning locker room.

“The death of the Big Three was overrated,” he said.

Sure was. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, his three prized players, are just fine. So are the Heat’s championship hopes.

Riding big performances from their three All-Stars, the Heat tied the NBA Finals with a 109-93 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night in Game 4.

James had 33 points and 11 rebounds after failing to break 20 points in any of the first three games of the series, and Wade scored 32 points, 11 more than his previous high this postseason.

Bosh matched his playoff high with 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, he and Wade supplying the baskets that finally put the Spurs away for good midway through the fourth quarter.

Three players, 85 points. Just the way the Heat envisioned it when they signed James and Bosh to play with Wade in 2010.

“When Bosh, Wade and James score the way they did tonight and shoot it the way they did tonight, a team is going to have a difficult time if you help them like we did,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “When those guys are playing like that, you better be playing a perfect game.”

The Spurs didn’t, committing 19 turnovers that led to 23 points.

Just like they have for the last five months, the Heat bounced back from a loss with a victory — a lopsided one at that. They are 12-0 after defeats since Jan. 10, outscoring opponents by nearly 20 points a game in those previous 11 victories.

“It’s a three-game series,” Wade said. “We just want to come out again and play well.”

Tim Duncan scored 20 points for the Spurs, who have one more game here Sunday. They fell to 10-3 at home all-time in the Finals, failing to back up their 113-77 victory in Game 3 that was the third-most lopsided score in the history of the championship series.

James insisted he would be better after shooting 7 of 21 from the field with no free throws in that game, saying he was the star and it was his job to lead his team.

But while James — and millions of critics — wanted to pile all the pressure on the league MVP, it was Wade on Wednesday who said it was the Heat’s three All-Stars who had to lead them together or there would be no championship.

He was right. And now those championship hopes are right back on track.

“It was on our shoulders,” James said. “We had to figure out how to win the game for us and play at the highest level. When all three of us are clicking, we’re very tough to beat.”

Tony Parker had 15 points and nine assists for the Spurs, who made a Finals-record 16 3-pointers Tuesday but got up only 16 attempts in this one. Gary Neal scored 13 points, and Danny Green had 10, solid nights but nothing like when they combined for 13 3-pointers two nights earlier.

The Heat guaranteed they will get at least one more game on their home floor. Game 6 will be Tuesday night, where they could have a chance to clinch a second straight championship.

Wade, battling right knee pain throughout the spring, put it away for Miami early in the fourth. He followed a basket with a steal and dunk, pushing the lead to 90-81, and after he made another jumper, Bosh scored the next six Heat points, taking the load off James.

The Heat switched their lineup, inserting Mike Miller, who made 10 of his 11 shots, going 9 of 10 on 3-pointers, in the first three games. They changed uniforms, too, switching from their road reds to their blacks.

The only change they really needed was in the performances of their Big Three. James called it a “must-win” and it probably was: No team has overcome a 3-1 deficit in the Finals.

And the way their three stars played, they couldn’t lose.

The Heat blocked shots, made stops and occasionally flopped, playing with renewed aggression after what coach Erik Spoelstra called a “miserable” day of watching and analyzing their passive performance from Tuesday.

They still haven’t lost two in a row since Jan. 8 and 10.

Parker played through a strained right hamstring, shooting 7 of 16, but the Spurs couldn’t match the Heat’s speed.