MIAMI — LeBron James and Kevin Durant exchanged words. Dwyane Wade and Serge Ibaka did a little shoving. Five technical fouls were called, and Russell Westbrook punched a table in frustration.
This NBA Finals rematch met expectations.
And like that series, it ended with Miami on top.
James had 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, Wade scored 21, and the Heat survived a frantic finish to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-97 on Tuesday.
“Felt a little bit like a different month," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Regardless of what your script is coming into the game, when you play this team, it’s not going to go according to script. They’re too good."
But on this night, much like last June, the Heat were better.
Mario Chalmers scored a season-high 20 for the Heat, who were 19 for 19 from the foul line, the second-best effort in franchise history behind only a 30-for-30 game in Boston on March 24, 1993. Chris Bosh added 16 for Miami, which has beaten the Thunder five straight times going back to last June’s title series.
Durant scored 33 points and Westbrook added 21 for Oklahoma City, but both Thunder stars missed potential game-tying 3-point attempts in the final seconds.
“It was a great game. I can’t complain," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We could have done a better job of not turning the ball over in the first half. All in all, it was a great game to play and a great game to coach. Unfortunately, we didn’t come out with the win."
The game had a little of everything — a fast start by the reigning champions, a one-handed dunk by James on an offensive rebound that will be added to his copious highlight reel, a scrum after a hard foul that led to double-technicals on Wade and Ibaka early in the fourth, an easy rally by the Thunder from an early double-digit deficit, and even workout partners in Durant and James barking back and forth in the final minutes.
Such was the intensity that James slumped over the scorer’s table with 1:08 left, exhausted.
“I’m tired as hell right now," James said — and that was more than an hour after the game ended.
With good reason. On an emotional day, there was a wild finish.
Wade lost the ball on an ill-advised, behind-the-back dribble, and the turnover set up Durant for a two-handed dunk that got the Thunder within 96-95 with 44.1 seconds remaining.
Needing a stop on the next trip, the Thunder forgot to play defense instead. Kendrick Perkins and Ibaka both were confused on the ensuing Miami possession, and Bosh was left alone to take a pass from James and throw down a dunk that restored Miami’s three-point edge.
“We went over and helped," Durant said. “We just needed to help on the backside. There was miscommunication but we still had a chance to go into overtime."
Two chances, actually.
Oklahoma City got within one when Durant made a jumper over James, but no closer. Ray Allen’s two free throws with 15.6 seconds left made it 100-97, and Miami’s last three points came from the line. Durant missed a 3-pointer that James contested, Westbrook wound up with a second chance that Wade defended, and the Thunder guard smacked a nearby table arguing that he was fouled.
“Part of the game," Westbrook said.
Also on Tuesday:
LOS ANGELES — Jamal Crawford led a dominant performance by the Los Angeles reserves with 22 points, and the Clippers beat Denver, extending their franchise-record winning streak to 14 games. Matt Barnes added 20 points — one off his season high — as the bench outscored the Clippers starters 64-48 in claiming the NBA’s best record at 22-6.
LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant engineered a second-half comeback, helping Los Angeles beat New York and extend its winning streak to five. Bryant scored 34 points in his NBA-record 15th Christmas Day game, and Metta World Peace added 20 points and seven rebounds while defending Carmelo Anthony, whose 34 points led the Knicks.
NEW YORK — Rajon Rondo scored 19 points in his first full game against Brooklyn this season, and Boston beat the Nets in another game with heated moments between the division rivals.
CHICAGO — James Harden scored 26 points and Jeremy Lin added 20 points and 11 assists to lead Houston over Chicago. Omer Asik had 20 points and 18 rebounds in his first trip back to Chicago since signing with the Rockets in the offseason. Nate Robinson led the Bulls with 27 points.