With the legacy of Miami's "Big Three" possibly hanging in the balance, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were everything they'd ever claimed to be.
James scored 33 points, Wade scored 32 and Bosh added 20 to help the Heat defeat the San Antonio Spurs 109-93 Thursday night in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, evening the series at two wins apiece.
James shot 7-for-21 in Game 3, but he went 15-for-25 from the floor Thursday. He also had 11 rebounds and four assists and helped the Heat look much more like the team that won 66 games in the regular season and less like the one that got hammered 113-77 on Tuesday.
"I came into the game confident," James said. "I knew what my mindset was going to be, and I didn't worry about last game. Last game was history, and I was just worried about the present."
Wade also stepped up. Coming in averaging just 14.3 points in the Finals, Wade made 14 of 25 shots in Game 4. He also had six rebounds, six steals and four assists for the Heat, who regained home-court advantage in the series after losing it in Game 1.
"He's a competitor," James said. "Every time he's doubted, he responds. He went back in his bag today. He was 'Flash' tonight, and we needed every bit of it."
But there was much more to it than that. Lose, and the defending champion Heat would have trailed 3-1 and faced elimination on Sunday in San Antonio. That would have been a tall order for the Heat and the stars who brashly spoke about winning multiple championships when joining forces three years ago.
Tim Duncan led San Antonio with 20 points. Tony Parker, who suffered a right hamstring strain in the third quarter of Game 3, was considered questionable for Game 4, but he started and contributed 15 points and nine assists. He went scoreless in the second half.
"It was kind of weak," Parker said. "I didn't know what to expect. Overall, I'm just happy I didn't make it worse."
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said Parker's injury wasn't a factor.
"No, Miami did a great job on him," Popovich said. "They double him. They got it out of his hands, and other people had to play. But they did a good job on him defensively. He's fine."
Danny Green, who scored 27 points in Game 3 and was the Spurs' leading overall scorer through the first three games, managed just 10 points Thursday. Gary Neal, who scored 24 points for San Antonio in Game 3, finished with 13 points.
Game 4 turned in the Heat's favor in the third quarter.
Miami went on an 8-0 run midway through the period, and a dunk by James gave the Heat a 67-61 lead.
Miami extended its lead to eight on a 3-pointer by Mario Chalmers, who was held scoreless in Game 3.
San Antonio appeared to gain momentum when Neal hit a 3-pointer while falling to the ground to trim Miami's lead to 76-73. Wade responded with a three-point play on the other end, and a putback by James late in the period gave the Heat an 81-76 lead heading into the fourth quarter. James had nine points and four rebounds in the third.
Allen's 3-pointer a minute into the fourth quarter bumped Miami's lead back up to eight. Wade's steal and dunk made it 90-81 with just over eight minutes to go, and Bosh scored in close to push the advantage to double digits.
The Heat changed their starting lineup, inserting Mike Miller in place of Udonis Haslem, with coach Erik Spoelstra hoping to open up the floor and generate offense.
Miami's change worked to San Antonio's advantage early. The Spurs, who set an NBA Finals record with 16 3-pointers in Game 3, hit three in the first quarter and had a 15-5 lead at the seven-minute mark.
The Heat turned it around, forcing 10 turnovers which led to 13 first-half points, and Miami led by 10 points in the second quarter.
Parker then sparked an 18-8 Spurs run that closed out the half with the score tied at 49.
Parker, who had 15 first-half points, contributed four points and four assists in a late second-quarter spurt.
James, who was held under 20 points in each of the first three games, had 15 first-half points, hitting seven of 11 shots from the floor. Wade had 14 points at the break.
The Spurs then struggled defensively in the second half.
"It's one game," Duncan said. "We'll make adjustments. We'll see what happens next game."