The heat was on Miami to deliver. And three-time MVP LeBron James (32 points) led from the front to ensure his team stole the thunder on Thursday night.

In a pulsating match, former champion Miami Heat warded off a late challenge from host Oklahoma City Thunder to win game two of the NBA finals 100-96 and put the series on level terms. Oklahoma, which drew first blood on Tuesday, ended up with its first reverse in 10 play-off games at home.

The visitors hit the court hard from the tip-off and the sell-out crowd at the Chesaspeake Energy Arena soon saw the first-time finalist trail 18-2 in the first quarter.

Missing 11 of its first 12 shots and some good combination play among James, Dwyane Wade, Shane Battier and Chris Bosh were the prime reasons for Thunder's setback.

Heat ended the quarter at 27-15 and it was the only one where it outscored the host, which persevered to play catch-up.

Joint top-scorer Kevin Durant, James Harden, who constantly provided some excitement with some accurate long throws, and Russell Westbrook conjured up a gritty display in the remaining quarters.

After the second quarter saw the teams score 28 points each, Thunder took the honours in the second half with 53 points, seven more than the Eric Spoelstra-coached side.

In fact, the second half of the last quarter saw Thunder raise its game by a few notches and close the gap to a mere two points (96-98) with just over 12 seconds left on the clock.

James had the final say by converting the last of his two free throws for a perfect record from 12 attempts. Speaking after the game, Thunder's lead coach Scott Brooks rued the abysmal start and paid tribute to the ‘Big Trio' of Miami.

“They played attacking basketball and got us on our heels. We have to play better from the very start. We missed shots and gave them too many easy shots. They have three great players and all three had great games,” said Brooks.  A relieved Spoelstra, while praising James and Battier, had special words for Bosh.

“He was sensational. We needed every bit of his ‘big' tonight and that's what we got.”

 The next three match-ups are to be held at Miami and if the first two are anything to go by, fans at the American Airlines Arena can expect some fast and furious action beginning with Game 3 scheduled for tip-off on Sunday. 

The result: Oklahoma City Thunder 96 (Kevin Durant 32, Russell Westbrook 27, James Harden 21) lost to Miami Heat 100 (LeBron James 32, Dwyane Wade 24, Shane Battier 17, Chris Bosh 16).

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