The 2012 NBA Finals was the championship series of the 2011–12 season of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the conclusion of the season's playoffs. The Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat defeated the Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder 4 games to 1 to win their second NBA title. Heat forward LeBron James was named the Finals MVP.
This marked the fourth time in franchise history that the Oklahoma City Thunder appeared in the NBA Finals, and the first time since the Seattle SuperSonics relocated from Seattle, Washington to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 2008. The franchise had previously appeared as the SuperSonics in 1996. It also marked the Miami Heat's third appearance in the NBA Finals. The Heat previously appeared in 2006 and 2011, both times against the Dallas Mavericks.
It was the first NBA Finals in 13 seasons that was not held in either the states of California or Texas; the 3 teams that won the previous 12 Western Conference titles the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs were eliminated by this season's Western Conference champion, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in that order.
The series began on June 12, five days later than its originally planned June 7 start. This delay was due to the lockout that pushed the start of the season to late December and shortened the regular season to 66 games. The series then ended on June 21. Under the 2–3–2 rotation, the Thunder had home-court advantage, since they had a better regular season record than the Heat, and thus hosted the first two games. The Heat also became the first team since the 2008–09 Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA title after losing the previous year, and the first Eastern Conference team to do so since the 1988–89 Detroit Pistons.
This was the second consecutive appearance for the Heat, after losing to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. This was also their second Finals appearance in the "Big Three" era. Their other Finals appearance was in 2006 when they defeated the Mavericks to win their first NBA title.
In the regular season, the Heat finished with 46 victories, then defeated the New York Knicks (4–1), Indiana Pacers (4–2) and Boston Celtics (4–3) on their way to the Finals. Along the way, they managed to overcome series deficits that nearly sent them home but they had strings of victories to let them survive. The first was against the Pacers in the Conference Semifinals when they trailed in the series, 1–2. The Heat responded by taking three straight victories to defeat the Pacers. The second was against the Celtics in the Conference Finals when they trailed, 2–3, in the series. They responded by winning a decisive game 6 in Boston, taking the last two games of the series to advance to the Finals.
The Heat retained much of the same cast from the previous year, save for Shane Battier, rookies Terrel Harris and Norris Cole, Eddy Curry, and Ronny Turiaf, who was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers team that lost in the Finals to the Boston Celtics in 2008.
This was the Thunder's first NBA Finals appearance since the team relocated from Seattle in 2008. Including their seasons as the Seattle SuperSonics, this was also the club's fourth Finals appearance, and first since 1996, when they lost to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. The team was seeking their first NBA championship since 1979.
The Thunder finished with 47 wins, second in the Western Conference. During the playoffs, they defeated the defending champion Dallas Mavericks (4–0), the Los Angeles Lakers (4–1), and the #1 West Seed San Antonio Spurs (4–2).
The Thunder came into the Finals as the second-youngest finalists in NBA history. With the exception of Derek Fisher (with the Los Angeles Lakers), Nazr Mohammed (with the San Antonio Spurs) and Kendrick Perkins (with the Boston Celtics), all players from the Thunder were playing in their first NBA Finals. They were the first Western Conference team in fourteen years to play in the NBA Finals without coming from the states of California or Texas.
The season series was tied, 1–1, with both teams winning at their home floor.All times are in Eastern Daylight Time (UTC−4)
The Thunder defeated the Heat, 105–94, in Game 1. Miami held the lead for most of the first three quarters, including a 13-point lead at one point during the second quarter. The Heat made five three-pointers to jump to a 29–22 lead by the end of the first quarter, but Oklahoma City kept on pace with Miami to keep the score at 54–47 by halftime. The Thunder then took the lead for good with 16 seconds left in the third quarter after Russell Westbrook made a free throw to make it 74–73. Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 36 points, while Westbrook had 27. LeBron James led the Heat with 30 points, but was held to one basket during the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter.
Game 1 of this series marked the first time since 2008 that the NBA Finals started after the conclusion of the NHL's Stanley Cup Finals. The 2012 Stanley Cup Finals ended the day before.
The Heat defeated the Thunder 100-96 in Game 2, tying the series at one game a piece and giving the Thunder their first home playoff loss of the season. Miami never trailed, building a 27–15 first quarter lead, and holding a 17-point advantage at one point. The Thunder attempted a comeback in the fourth quarter, and with 37 seconds left in the game, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant made a three-pointer to cut the deficit, 98–96.Kevin Durant would miss a game-tying jumper in the closing seconds as Miami held off Oklahoma City for the Game 2 win.LeBron James led the Heat with 32 points.
Miami won Game 3, 91-85, to go up two games to one in the series. Miami had a slim 47–46 halftime lead before Oklahoma City began the third quarter with a 10–4 run, eventually building a 10-point lead midway through the period. However, Miami scored the last seven points in the third quarter to regain the lead at 69–67. With 7:36 remaining in the game, the Thunder came back to retake the lead at 77–76, but the Heat then scored eight unanswered points to build an 84–77 advantage with 3:47 left. A 6–0 run by Oklahoma City pulled them within one point of Miami with 90 seconds left, but the Thunder could not score again for the rest of the game while the Heat made five insurance free throws.
Miami won Game 4, 104–98, to go up three games to one in the series. The Thunder jumped to a 33–19 lead by the end the first quarter, but the Heat rallied to cut the score to 49–46 at halftime, thanks to two huge three-pointers by Heat rookie Norris Cole. The two teams remained neck-and-neck throughout most of the third quarter, with Miami holding a 4-point lead at the start of fourth period. However, for the final 16 minutes of the game, Russell Westbrook (who led the Thunder with 43 points) and Kevin Durant (who had 28 points) were the only two Oklahoma City players able to score. With the other Thunder players struggling to make their shots, Miami was able to pull away in the end, largely thanks to late-game heroics from LeBron James, Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade. LeBron James led the Heat with 26 points, including the go ahead three pointer, but had to sit out during the final two minutes of the game due to leg cramps. Mario Chalmers scored 25 points and made two key plays to seal Miami's win: a driving layup around a well-positioned Serge Ibaka and two free throws after a rare mistake by Westbrook (he fouled Chalmers after the point guard recovered Shane Battier's tip on a jump ball with less than 1 minute left, thinking that the shot clock would reset, while NBA rules do not reset at that point in a 4th quarter if the team that previously had the ball re-gains possession off the tip).
Miami won Game 5, 121–106, to win the series, four games to one. After keeping it a close game in the first half, the Thunder were outscored by 14 in the third quarter, with Miami leading as much as 27 at one point. Miami was fueled by strong performances by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, as well as by Mike Miller, who was 7 for 8 for three-pointers, ending the night with 23 points. Miller only entered the game because Wade encountered foul trouble in the first half, with Coach Erik Spoelstra telling the variously-injured veteran the Heat just needed him to hold the fort until the 2nd quarter began; when Miller hit two three-pointers, Spoelstra asked him if he could keep playing and Miller said yes, leading to 23 minutes on the court that were critical in blowing the game open for Miami. The team tied an NBA Finals record for most 3-pointers in a game with 14. With three minutes remaining in the game, both teams took their starters out of the game, with the Heat still leading by more than 20 points. With their Game 5 win, the Heat won their second NBA championship in team history, and the first for several Heat players, including James, who was named the NBA Finals MVP after averaging 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists in the finals, capping it all off with his first triple double of the season in the final game. For the Thunder, Kevin Durant had 32 points, and 11 rebounds; Russell Westbrook had 19 points and 6 assists; and James Harden led the bench with 19 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds.
The Heat became just the third home team to sweep the middle three games of a Finals series since the NBA switched to the 2–3–2 format in 1985, the other two being their 2006 team and the 2004 Detroit Pistons. They also joined the 2004 Pistons and 1995 Houston Rockets as the only lower seeded team to win the Finals in 5 games or less. In addition, they became the first team to win the NBA Finals after trailing in three different series in the postseason, 1–2 against Indiana, 2–3 against Boston, and 0–1 against Oklahoma City. Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem are the only Heat players to win both 2006 and 2012 NBA championships for the Miami Heat, while head coach Erik Spoelstra earned a second ring to go with the one he earned as an assistant for the 2006 team. The Heat's second title also made them the first franchise in the NBA's Southeast Division with multiple titles (the Atlanta Hawks won the title in 1958 while they were based in St. Louis, and the Washington Wizards won in 1978, while the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets have not won any NBA titles as of 2015) and they remain the only expansion team in the past 25 years to ever win a title.Miami Heat
Oklahoma City Thunder
In the United States, the NBA Finals aired on ABC and Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy served as commentators. ESPN Radio aired it as well and had Jim Durham, Jack Ramsey and Hubie Brown as commentators.
Days before the start of the 2012–13 season, the Thunder traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets after failing to come up with a contract extension. Despite losing Harden, the Thunder won 60 games for the first time since moving to Oklahoma City, in the process claiming the top seed in the Western Conference. Kevin Durant, despite finishing second to Carmelo Anthony in scoring, became the youngest member of the 50–40–90 club by shooting 51% from the field, 42% from three-point range, and 91% from the free throw line. In the playoffs, the Thunder eliminated former teammate Harden and the Rockets in six games in the first round. During that series, however, Russell Westbrook slightly tore his right meniscus, ending his season. The loss of Westbrook proved crucial, as the Thunder lost to the defensive-minded Memphis Grizzlies in five games of the conference semifinals.
The Heat repeated as champions the next season by defeating the San Antonio Spurs in a tough seven-game series. Before the season began, the Heat acquired veteran sharpshooter Ray Allen from the Boston Celtics, then added energetic forward Chris Andersen midway through the season. The Heat won a league second-best 27 consecutive games before finishing with a franchise-record 66 wins and the top overall seed. In the playoffs, the Heat swept the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, defeated the Chicago Bulls in five games of the second round, overcame the Indiana Pacers in seven games of the conference finals, before winning the championship against the Spurs. The next season the Heat failed to win a third straight championship, losing to the Spurs 4-1 in a rematch of the previous season's finals. The Spurs had defeated the Thunder in the Western Conference finals prior to the NBA finals. The Heat loss in the finals led LeBron James to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers to join with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, which eventually reached the Finals before losing to the Golden State Warriors in six games and again reached the Finals in a rematch with the Golden State Warriors and beat the Warriors in seven games to give the Cleveland Cavaliers the franchise's first NBA Championship.