MIAMI -- Next time, the Oklahoma City Thunder will know the rule. Not knowing it might have cost them Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
Here was the situation: Oklahoma City's James Harden and Miami's Udonis Haslem grabbed a rebound simultaneously with 17.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter on Tuesday night, after Heat guard Dwyane Wade's try from the baseline missed everything.
Jump ball was the call, and the proper one.
When Harden and Haslem grabbed the ball and the play was whistled dead, 0.8 seconds remained on the shot clock, which almost certainly wouldn't be enough for the Heat to control the tap and get a good shot at the basket. But because of the jump-ball situation, the shot clock was reset to show 5 seconds.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra knew the rule, immediately holding out five fingers and yelling at his team.
The Thunder, apparently, were unaware of what happens to the clock in that situation, with some players thinking it was turned off entirely. That explains why Russell Westbrook fouled Miami's Mario Chalmers after Heat forward Shane Battier controlled the jump ball, looking incredulous and stunned after the whistle was blown. Chalmers made two free throws for a five-point lead, essentially sealing the Miami win.
"For some odd reason, when the jump ball occurred, there was about maybe 0.4 seconds on the shot clock, and I was just thinking like it was 13 seconds left, so if they won the tip, then we were going to have to foul," Westbrook explained Wednesday. "But I forgot that you get five seconds once the jump ball occurred again, and I just forgot. Just a mental error on my part."
Seems like players could understand Westbrook's confusion.
Even Wade said he didn't have full knowledge of the rule in that moment.
"I'm sure a lot of players didn't even know that rule," Wade said. "When we were told, it's like, `OK, this is great, this is a bonus for us.' But I also knew that it was going to be tough if we got the tip to get a great shot off. Shane did an unbelievable job of making sure that we got the ball. They pretty much had it and Shane came out of nowhere and tipped it, and we got lucky enough where Rio got fouled and was able to go to the line."
LeBron James' final three points of Game 4 in the NBA Finals were incredible.
Barely able to do anything more than jog while trying to deal with leg cramps, James took a pass near the top of the key, waved off his teammates and fired a 3-pointer over Thabo Sefolosha to give Miami a 97-94 lead. The ball went through the net with 2:54 left on the clock, and on a play where Sefolosha -- who was playing about 4 feet off of James at the time -- hardly contested the shot.
It was a huge shot for the Heat, who never saw their lead fall below three points the rest of the way.
"If you're cramping, that 3-point shot is the best shot you're going to get, because if you drive to the basket, you're not going to be able to get what you want to get it," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "It was a big shot. ... But he showed what we know he has, and he showed that heart and that will to do whatever it takes to make sure this team is victorious."
It's been just over a year since the Heat watched the Dallas Mavericks celebrate winning the NBA Finals -- in Miami.
And even though Miami now has to win just one of the next three games to take this year's title, the Heat have only one chance to get it done at home. Miami's final home game of the season is Thursday night in Game 5 of the Finals.
"We think about that every day," Heat forward Chris Bosh said. "I'm reminded every time I walk in here. I think it's a healthy thing for us. ... At no time did we think or feel that we're owed anything. We have to show up. We have to play together. We have to play the right way, and we have to earn it. It shouldn't be any other way."
If Game 6 or Game 7 is necessary, it would be in Oklahoma City. Miami's only championship has come on the road -- it took the 2006 crown in Dallas.
Something about Miami just doesn't agree with Oklahoma City guard James Harden.
He's shot 2 for 10 in both games of the NBA Finals played so far on the Heat home floor. (One possible explanation is that Harden has a bruised left hand, but the injury that popped up during Game 4 is not expected to keep him out of Game 5 of the finals on Thursday night).
And this 2 for 10 thing with Harden in Miami, it's becoming a trend.
Not only is that his shooting line from Game 3 and Game 4, it also was what he shot on the AmericanAirlines Arena court on March 22, 2009 -- his final college game, an NCAA Tournament loss to Syracuse. (He actually was worse two days earlier, shooting 1 for 8, but Arizona State beat Temple in its tourney opener nonetheless.)
In three regular season games in Miami, Harden has shot 10 for 26. Add it all up, and in seven NCAA and NBA games he's 17 for 64 on the court Miami calls home.
"I have a lot of confidence in my shot," Harden said. "It's definitely frustrating when those shots get open and don't go in, but you've got to continue to play. Especially for a player like me, I rely on more than just shooting, on just scoring the basketball. Obviously that aspect of my game has to be picked up in order for us to win games."
The 2012 Heat could become just the third team since the NBA Finals went to the 2-3-2 format in 1985 to sweep the three games at home. The 2004 Detroit Pistons did it -- as did the 2006 Heat. ... Miami's rally from 17 points down in Game 4 was the team's biggest playoff comeback ever, and the seventh for the Heat from double-digits back this season. ... Russell Westbrook's 43 points in Game 4 was the highest single-game total in the finals since Dwyane Wade scored 43 for Miami against Dallas in Game 5 of the 2006 title series.