OKLAHOMA CITY -- LeBron James asked for help, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh provided it.The Miami Heat finally rediscovered the formula to winning in the NBA Finals - barely.James scored 32 points, Wade rebounded from a poor opener with 24 and the Heat built a huge early lead before holding off a furious fourth-quarter rally behind their three All-Stars to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-96 on Thursday night to tie the series at one game apiece.Bosh had 16 points and 15 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup for the Heat, who snapped a four-game finals losing streak with their first victory since Game 3 against Dallas last year.Now they go home to host Game 3 on Sunday and the next two after that, knowing they don't have to hear the noisy Thunder fans again - not to mention all their critics - if they win all three.Kevin Durant scored 32 points for the Thunder, but missed a shot after appearing to be bumped with James that would have tied a game the Thunder trailed the entire way. Russell Westbrook finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but shot 10 of 25 from the field.James Harden tried to keep the Thunder in it early and finished with 21 points, but this time the Thunder couldn't come back from a double-digit deficit after spotting Miami a 17-point advantage during their worst first half of the season.It was the first home loss in 10 postseason games for the Thunder, who had overcome a 13-point deficit in Game 1.This time, the Heat's Big Three just wouldn't allow them to get going.
Monday afternoon, news broke that Pelicans rookie, awe-inspiring phenom and the subject of numerous long-forgotten basketball prophecies, Zion Williamson, will miss the first 6-8 weeks of the NBA season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn right meniscus. No reaction to this news is complete or legitimate without first acknowledging that this is a devastating development for anyone who loves this league and, of course, for Zion himself (human to human, injuries are brutal and we wish him the best). On a basketball note, Williamson looked every bit as exceptional as advertised this preseason, and the Pelicans are primed to be one of the most fun young teams the NBA has seen in a long while — a League Pass must-watch of the highest caliber.
But, unfortunately, the show will have to go on in New Orleans without their No. 1 overall pick, at least for the time being. In the wake of the initial report, NBA Twitter was ablaze with reactions, as one might expect. Among the highlights…
Historical comparisons were pondered:
"I'm from Chicago. Derrick Rose's situation? No one could see that coming..."— Michael Wilbon (@RealMikeWilbon) October 21, 2019
My thoughts on the Zion Williamson injury pic.twitter.com/xM517OuOxB
The fewest games played by a Rookie of the Year is still Patrick Ewing’s 50 out of 82 for the Knicks in 1985-86— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 21, 2019
Blake Griffin— bankrich (@RichAmazigh) October 21, 2019
All missed their entire rookie year but Zion out 2 months n he Greg Oden 2.0 don’t y’all get tired of being wrong
Meniscuses (menisci?) were offered up:
Pelican win total has gone from 38.5 to 35.5, and now with Zion surgery, has gone off the board.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) October 21, 2019
NBA Rookie of the Year updated— Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) October 21, 2019
Ja Morant 2/1
Zion Williamson 3/1
RJ Barrett 4/1
Tyler Herro 10/1
Coby White 10/1
Rui Hachimura 12/1
Darius Garland 20/1
Jarrett Culver 20/1
Michael Porter Jr 20/1
De’Andre Hunter 40/1
Carsen Edwards 50/1
Brandon Clarke 50/1
Cam Reddish 60/1
When I said I’m getting on the Pelicans bandwagon and now Zion is out 6-8 weeks pic.twitter.com/5e8LbkDBPE— Megan (@megreyes_) October 21, 2019
There is a silver lining for Bulls fans in all of this, though. Right now, barring a highly improbable (to put it lightly) NBA Finals matchup, the Bulls and Pelicans are slated to face off twice in the regular season, the first meeting of which will be on January 8 in New Orleans. According to the reported 6-8 week recovery timetable for Williamson, he should be set to return some time in between late November and mid-December. That means there’s a good chance Williamson will suit up for both games against the Bulls this season — unless, of course, nagging injuries plague his rookie campaign (please no).
The city of Chicago got a taste of the legend of Zion this preseason, when the Pelicans visited the United Center on October 9. Williamson was exquisite in that contest, tallying 29 points on 12-of-13 shooting in 27 minutes of game action, accumulating a number of highlight-reel plays along the way:
Now, let us all come together and pray to the basketball gods for a speedy recovery and a long and healthy career for the Duke product. No matter your allegiances, there’s no doubt the NBA is better and more exciting league with him in it.
On a day that saw a number of young stars across the league secure bags large and larger, the Bulls made some ripples of their own, exercising the fourth-year option on Lauri Markkanen, and third-year options on Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison.
These moves are a formality. Markkanen and Carter are each poised for statistical jumps this season and are already unquestioned centerpieces of an exciting young core in Chicago. Hutchison, when healthy, has also showed flashes of being an intriguing piece on a team strapped for defense-minded wings.
Still, it’s a nice bit of reassurance that these guys are around for the long haul (Markkanen and Carter, at least). Even when/if Markkanen hits restricted free agency two offseasons from now, the Bulls will be able to match any offer sheet he might sign with another team. The same is true for Carter in three years, provided they extend qualifying offers to each of them (at this point, it’s hard to see how they wouldn’t).
For now, having already productive NBA players with enormous potential on team-friendly deals is a big reason to get excited about the direction the Bulls are heading in. Now, buckle up for the season-opener this Wednesday in Charlotte.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.