Miami Heat Close in on NBA Title with Third-Straight Win


(Courtesy: MGN)

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By Molly Gray

for CNN

(CNN) — Russell Westbrook’s impressive 43 points were not enough to end the Oklahoma City Thunder’s losing streak in Game 4 of this year’s NBA finals.

They lost 104-98, their third-straight loss against the Miami Heat.

The Thunder, who went into the game down two in the best-of-seven series, looked like a team determined to make a comeback, surging to a quick lead that topped out at 17 points in the first quarter.

However, the Heat brought the game to within three by the half and never looked back — thanks mainly to the influential LeBron James.

James, who had 26 points and 12 assists, sat out the final minutes of the game with a cramp in his quadriceps. But he went to the bench only after sinking a momentum-changing three-pointer to put the Heat up 97-94.

“The ball was swung to me … I just wanted to step up and make a play with the limited mobility that I had,” James told reporters after the game, in quotes carried by “My teammates were able to close it from there.”

The Heat were also aided by point guard Mario Chalmers, who put up 25 points in his 34 minutes of play. Up to this point, Chalmers has been noticeably quite in the series, scoring only two points in game three.

“I think they kind of forgot about me and let me roam a little bit more tonight,” Chalmers said of his repeated opportunities to pull up and shoot.

But Chalmers is known for coming up big when it counts the most.

“He’s done it time and time again in big games in college, big games in the pros,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You can’t teach that. He gave us a lift tonight that we really needed.”

Again, the final minutes of play were defined by mistakes on the part of Oklahoma City. With less than 20 seconds remaining on the clock, Westbrook fouled Chalmers, despite the fact that only five seconds remained on the shot clock.

“It was just a mis-communication on my part,” Westbrook told reporters after the game. “Nothing I can do about it now.”

When asked about whether his performance vindicated himself in anyway after being hit hard by media over the off-season, Westbrook didn’t mince words in saying none of it mattered.

“What you guys say doesn’t make me happy or make me sad,” he said. “It’s not me against the world. It’s me and my teammates trying to win.”

The fifth game of the series tips off Thursday in Miami.

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