SAN ANTONIO -- LeBron James guaranteed he would play better. He did.
But who knew Dwyane Wade would practically steal the show with 32 points, ignoring his injured right knee and guaranteeing with his play that the NBA Finals would return to Miami next week.
Wade made 14 of 25 shots as Miami beat San Antonio, 109-93, in Game 4, tying the series at two games each.
James was there, too, pushing the ball mercilessly and taking run after run at the basket with success Thursday at AT&T Center. He had 33 points on 15-for-25 shooting.
Wade, though, was the one who put the game away after James went to the bench for a rest with 9:34 to play and the Heat up seven.
After scoring on a five-footer, Wade stepped in front of Danny Green’s cross-court pass and took it in for a dunk over Gary Neal. Then he hit an 18-footer. And found Chris Bosh, who finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds, for an open jump shot.
All told, by the time James returned a few minutes later, the Heat led, 96-85.
Game over. Series tied. A historically commanding 3-1 lead averted, which was important for Miami. No team had ever come back from such a deficit to win the NBA Finals.
"Right now it's a three-game series," Wade said. "Two great ballclubs, we just want to come out again and play well."
Game 5 is Sunday in San Antonio before the series shifts back to Miami for good.
The big question coming into the night was whether James would make a dent in the scoring column after shooting 38.9% and averaging an unLeBron-like 16.7 points through three games.
He got off to a great start, making five of six shots in the first quarter as the Heat took a 29-26 lead. They still led going into the fourth quarter, 81-76, in large part because of James.
James was solid defensively, taking 11 rebounds, collecting two steals and blocking two shots, including Tim Duncan’s layup attempt with 2:57 left in third quarter. It was all part of Miami’s stellar defensive night, the Heat forcing 19 turnovers.
Still, there was Wade.
He picked up his fourth foul with 8:28 left in the third quarter but stayed in the game almost the rest of the way. The Heat had little choice.
Wade hadn’t seemed quite like Wade because of a bone bruise on his right knee that affected him for almost three months. He averaged 14.3 points the first three Finals games.
That will increase after Thursday.
"When those guys are playing like that, you better be playing a perfect game," Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said of the Heat's Big Three.
"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."
Along with questions about James’ play before Thursday, there were some about Tony Parker’s health after he sustained a strained right hamstring in Game 3.
“I’ll be ready to go,” he repeated three times in a brief interview with reporters after the team’s Thursday morning shoot-around.
He was right, for the most part. He had 15 points and nine assists but was scoreless in the fourth quarter with only one assist. Duncan had 20 points but Manu Ginobili scored only five, missing four of five shots.
Miami tried to mix things up, inserting sharp shooter Mike Miller into the starting lineup instead of plodding big man Udonis Haslem. It didn’t exactly work. Miller was scoreless in 21 minutes.
But everything else went fine for the Heat. Starting with James and Wade, just like old times.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun