SAN ANTONIO — LeBron James was better as promised. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were the best they’ve been since the playoffs started.
Riding big performances from their Big Three, the Miami 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 post-season.
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.
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 losses since Jan. 10, outscoring opponents by 19.8 points in the previous 11 victories.
“Right now it’s a three-game series,” Wade said. “Two great ballclubs, we just want to come out again and play well.”
Tim Duncan scored 20 points for the Spurs, who have one more game here on Sunday. They fell to 10-3 at home in finals games, failing to back up their 113-77 victory in Game 3 that was the third-most lopsided game 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 worldwide — wanted to pile all the pressure on the league’s 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.
Tony Parker had 15 points and nine assists for the Spurs, who made a finals-record 16 3-pointers on 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 of 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 of the series. 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.
After the teams traded blowouts in the previous two games, momentum swung wildly in a first half that ended tied at 49. San Antonio raced to a quick 10-point lead, fell behind by 10 with 7 minutes left in the half, then finished with an 11-2 spurt sparked by reserve Boris Diaw. Bosh dove for a dunk that came just after the buzzer, Spurs owner Peter Holt waving it off from his seat along the sideline.
James rocked back and forth during the national anthem, a bundle of energy ready to get going. It took a few minutes after the game started, but he began playing with the speed and power that makes him unguardable at his best, grabbing rebounds on defence and rushing the ball up the floor himself to get the Heat into their offence.
He and Wade combined to make 10 of 11 shots and score 21 points in the first quarter, helping the Heat erase their early 10-point deficit to go ahead 29-26.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich even lit into Duncan during an early second-quarter timeout with Miami on its way to a 41-31 advantage, but the Spurs had it back to even by the time the teams headed to the locker room.