MIAMI — LeBron James twisted his ankle falling over a videographer, got smacked in the back by a referee, took what he thought was excessive contact twice while attempting dunks and dealt with more pain from his injured left ring finger.
All worth it by night’s end.
James had 34 points and 10 assists, Dwyane Wade scored 19 points, and the Miami Heat rallied to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 98-93 on Wednesday night to extend the NBA’s longest home winning streak this season to 17 games.
The Heat were down 11 in the second quarter before getting a boost from two hard Oklahoma City fouls, the second being Russell Westbrook pulling James down from behind on a fast break.
And if this was a one-on-one battle for the NBA Most Valuable Player, then advantage James. Kevin Durant scored 30 points for the Thunder but had a career-high nine turnovers.
“You take the personal challenge,” James said.
Mario Chalmers scored 13 points and Chris Bosh 12 for Miami (39-14), which moved within two games of Chicago (42-13) in the race for the NBA’s best record.
Westbrook scored 28 points for Oklahoma City (40-14) but had his struggles, shooting 9 of 26. James Harden scored 12 points for the Thunder, who lost despite holding Miami to 37 percent shooting.
“We could have played a lot stronger,” Durant said, “but you have to give credit to Miami.”
Durant had two shots late that either would have given Oklahoma City the lead or pulled the Thunder into a tie. He backed James down with about 1:30 left and the Heat up by one and then tried a turnaround that caromed off the top of the backboard. Later, with it still a one-possession game out of a timeout, the Thunder went for the quick 3, but Durant’s try to tie hit the front of the rim and went out of bounds.
Wade made a pair of foul shots, stretching Miami’s lead to five.
“It was a physical game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “I like that. I’m sure they like it. Neither team backed down.”
Oklahoma City’s win at home over Miami last week was largely one-sided. For a while, this one looked as if it would go the same way.
Westbrook’s three-point play with 7:27 left in the second quarter gave Oklahoma City a 36-25 lead, and that sort of margin typically means a Thunder win — they came into Wednesday 32-2 when they held a double-digit lead.
“Two very good teams,” Wade said. “It was a playoff atmosphere here tonight. Good game, great for the fans and great competition.”