MIAMI — It surely had to be about the shoe.
That was the early story of the Miami Heat’s comeback.
And then the headband intervened.
That clearly had to be enough, right?
Not a chance.
A 3-pointer by Ray Allen with 5.2 seconds tied it at the end of regulation and the Heat hung on in overtime for a 103-100 victory Tuesday in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, evening the best-of-7 series at 3. They can win their second straight title with a win in Game 7 Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
They are trying to become the eighth team to rally from a 3-2 deficit in the Finals. History is on their side, with no road team ever winning a Game 7 since beginning the 2-3-2 format 1985.
The Heat grabbed the lead for good when LeBron James, who scored 18 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, made a layup with one minute, 43 seconds left to make it 101-100. Manu Ginobili then was stripped while driving toward the basket.
The ball ended up with Allen, who hit two free throws to seal it.
It was a fitting end to the unpredictable series.
The Heat looked left for dead in the third quarter when they trailed by 13. They looked like they were down to their final 12 minutes when they trailed 75-65 entering the fourth.
After Mike Miller’s 3-pointer while wearing just one shoe sparked the rally, it was a headband-less James who nearly finished it. James hit another gear after ditching his signature accessory early in the fourth quarter.
And they can thank James.
James opened the fourth quarter by assisting on a Mario Chalmers’ 3-pointer and then scoring a driving layup. He then found Miller, who had lost his shoe on the defensive end, for a 3-pointer from the wing to make it a four-point game. James then lost his headband after a dunk that pulled the Heat to within 80-77 with 9:01 left.
He ditched the attire. But his play was still present.
James pulled the Heat even at 82 with a layup. The play preceded his block of Tim Duncan at the rim. The Heat then grabbed their first lead on a basket from Allen that made it 84-82 with 6:03.
The Heat appeared in good shape until a Tony Parker 3-pointer tied it at 89. After a Chalmers turnover, Parker put the Spurs ahead by with short jumper with 58 seconds left. The Spurs were so comfortably ahead many fans began leaving for the exits before Allen’s game-tying three.
At first, it appeared it would never get to that point.
The Heat started as if they were headed toward continuing the trend of the teams trading victories in the series. All of their adjustments worked in their favor for most of the first half.
Chalmers put pressure on Parker by playing aggressive offensively. James got other teammates involved, finding Shane Battier and Chalmers for open 3-pointers. Even Chris Andersen returned to the rotation, providing a boost from the crowd.
The Heat took a 44-39 lead with 4:32 left in the half.
Then the Spurs erased it with their old reliable. The 37-year-old Duncan at one point scored 13 straight points. The Heat were at disadvantage whether it was Bosh or Andersen guarding Duncan in the post. He finished with 30 points and 17 rebounds.
In all, the Spurs closed with a 11-0 run to drain the energy from the crowd.
The Heat showed some life in the third quarter.
After Ginobili opened the second half with a 3-pointer, the Heat went on a 13-3 run to pull to within one on Miller’s driving layup at the 6:16 mark. The Spurs called a timeout and quickly regrouped.
San Antonio responded with 3-point plays Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Duncan on three of the next four possessions. It led to a 14-2 run that gave the Spurs a 13-point lead after a pair of free throws by Parker.