MIAMI-- LeBron James and the Heat remember the pain from a year ago.
They needed two wins for a title and never got another, their superstar player coming up small in the biggest moments -- a finals failure for which James has accepted the blame.
He seems determined not to let it happen again.
James had 29 points and 14 rebounds, and the Miami Heat took a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals with a 91-85 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night. Dwyane Wade had 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Heat, who were in this same position through three games last year, then didn’t win again against the Dallas Mavericks.
"We carry that pain with us," the Heat’s Chris Bosh said. "We think about it every day and that really helps us to succeed in this series."
James’ poor performance was part of the problem then, but he seems on top of his game this time. His 3-pointer sent the Heat to the fourth quarter with the lead, and he scored five straight Miami points when the Heat were building just enough cushion to hold off another late flurry by the Thunder.
"Big time player makes big time plays on the big stage," Heat reserve James Jones said.
Game 4 is Tuesday night.
Kevin Durant had 25 points for the Thunder, but picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter and had to go to the bench when they had seemed to have control of the game.
The Heat survived their own fourth-quarter sloppiness -- nine turnovers -- by getting enough big plays from their Big Three.
James scored 30 and 32 points in the first two games, his two best finals performances. He fell just shy of another 30-point effort but reached his 20 points for the 20th time this postseason, two shy of Wade’s franchise record set in 2006.
Gone is the player who seemed so tentative down the stretch last year in his second finals failure. He’s constantly on the attack now, all while defending Durant in key situations.