MIAMI — One more victory. One more victory for validation.
Perhaps on Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena in Game 5 of these NBA Finals, when the celebration would be at its most robust, 20,000 believers along for the ride.
Or perhaps in one of this best-of-seven series' final two games, at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Heat is on the verge of turning those July 2010 promises of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh into reality.
With Tuesday night's 104-98 victory over the Thunder, the Heat moved to a 3-1 series lead, on a night James overcame a late left leg injury and fell one rebound shy of his eighth career triple double, with 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.
Every one of those numbers were needed, as were the 25 points from Wade and a 25-point reemergence from point guard Mario Chalmers, which tied his career playoff high.
"Whatever it takes. No excuses," Wade said. "You don't want to leave this arena saying you missed opportunities."
On this night, the Thunder had the singular scoring sensation.
It wasn't 2011-12 scoring champion Kevin Durant, who did his part with 28 points, but rather all-or-nothing point guard Russell Westbrook, who scored 43.
"I thought Russell was terrific," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "The guy played relentless. He was aggressive. He kept us in this game and he gave us a chance to win."
Oklahoma City is the 14th team since the 2-3-2 Finals format started in 1985 to trail a series 3-1. None of the previous 13 has even forced a Game 7.
"I can guarantee this," Brooks said. "We have fight in us."
James stumbled and fell on a drive midway through the fourth quarter, staying on the offensive end of the floor as the Heat regained possession on a blocked shot, and he made a short jumper for a 92-90 lead. After Westbrook missed a jumper, the Heat called timeout as James gingerly went to the court. Unable to walk off, he was carried to the sideline by two teammates.
He returned to a huge roar with a little more than 4 minutes left and the Heat down two. After Bosh tied it, James slowly walked into a pull-up 3-pointer.
That made it 97-94, and when Wade followed with a layup with 2:19 left, the Heat finally enough room to withstand Westbrook, who kept coming all night.
A Westbrook layup drew the Thunder within 101-98, with a jump ball then called with 17.3 seconds to play. The Heat controlled the tip after a hustling effort from Shane Battier and held on from there, completing the largest comeback in franchise playoff history, from 17 down early.
OKLAHOMA CITY (98): Durant 9-19 9-9 28, Ibaka 2-4 0-0 4, Perkins 2-5 0-0 4, Westbrook 20-32 3-3 43, Sefolosha 2-7 0-0 5, Collison 3-4 0-0 6, Harden 2-10 3-4 8, Fisher 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 40-82 15-16 98.
MIAMI (104): James 10-20 5-8 26, Battier 1-4 1-2 4, Bosh 6-12 1-1 13, Chalmers 9-15 4-5 25, Wade 8-19 7-9 25, Miller 0-1 0-0 0, Cole 3-6 0-0 8, Haslem 0-0 0-0 0, Jones 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 38-79 18-25 104.
Oklahoma City 33 16 26 23— 98
Miami 19 27 33 25— 104
3-Point Goals—Oklahoma City 3-16 (Sefolosha 1-3, Harden 1-5, Durant 1-5, Westbrook 0-3), Miami 10-26 (Chalmers 3-9, Wade 2-3, Cole 2-3, Jones 1-2, James 1-4, Battier 1-4, Miller 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Oklahoma City 43 (Harden 10), Miami 48 (Bosh, James 9). Assists—Oklahoma City 13 (Westbrook 5), Miami 19 (James 12). Total Fouls—Oklahoma City 20, Miami 18. A—20,003 (19,600).
RILEY EARNS DALY HONOR: Pat Riley was walking out of Chuck Daly's hospital room in 2009, got to the doorway and turned around for another word from his longtime colleague, rival and friend.
Riley remembers it vividly.
"He looked at me, I looked back at him for a pause and he just sort of said, 'I'll see you later,' " said Riley, the Hall of Fame coach and president of the Heat. "I'll never forget it. That was the last time I saw him."
The two became linked again Tuesday, when the National Basketball Coaches Association selected Riley as this year's recipient of the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, which commemorates the former Detroit coach's life in basketball and his "standard of integrity, competitive excellence and tireless promotion" of the game.
Riley is the fifth person to receive the award, joining Tommy Heinsohn in 2009, Jack Ramsay and Tex Winter in 2010 and Lenny Wilkens in 2011. Daly died in 2009.
"This is not an award," Riley said. "This is something somebody bestows on you. I'm very honored that the coaches association would do this."
WADE CUSTODY FIGHT: Dwyane Wade asked a Chicago judge to suspend his ex-wife's right to visitation with their two children after a weekend incident that delayed the boys' return to his custody and led to her arrest. Wade's attorney, James Pritikin, filed an emergency motion and appeared in court to have it heard, hours before Game 4. A hearing was set for June 26, date of Game 7 if the NBA Finals go that far.
LAKERS: Ramon Sessions is declining his player option for next season to test free agency. General manager Mitch Kupchak said he wished Sessions had picked up the $4.55 million option, but the club will still try to sign the point guard.