Tuesday night’s Game 4 was the strangest NBA Finals game I have ever seen and I go back to the Detroit Pistons mini-dynasty in the late 80’s. Octogenarians can let me know how it stacks up on the strangeness meter all-time in Finals history but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s pretty high up there.
Let’s start with LeBron James who never gets hurt, getting hurt at the worst possible time with his team on the brink of relinquishing a lead mid-way through the 4th quarter that they had held for most of the 2nd half. Then there’s Mario Chalmers, who gets verbally abused on a consistent basis by his own teammates, likely carrying the Heat to a title with a 25- point effort, including 12 in the 4th quarter. This is a player who scored a total of 5 points in Games 2 and 3 on 2-15 shooting from the field.
Finally we have Russell Westbrook. Somehow, even in his finest hour, he managed to make a bonehead play at the end of the game that may have cost his team a chance to send the game to overtime. If you missed it Westbrook inexplicably fouled Mario Chalmers with 13.8 seconds left off a jump ball win even though the Heat had less than 5 seconds on the shot clock. Why Russell why.
You’ll notice I didn’t include the Thunder’s 17-point 1st quarter lead vanishing early in the 2nd quarter as part of my “strange things that happened in Game 4” list. More than any other sport no big lead is ever safe in the NBA, especially in the 1st half. Now if the Thunder had maintained a double-digit lead throughout the entire game? That would have been something to talk about.
Everybody assumed that the questions about LeBron’s ability to come through late in games would be answered by an NBA title. Well as it turns out he may get his title and yet still not give you that warm fuzzy feeling when the game is on the line. Before he succumbed to leg cramps with less than 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter, James was on the verge of a meltdown. Starting at the 11 minute mark here are his offensive plays leading up to the injury; missed free throw, missed three-pointer, missed jumper, missed jumper, turnover, made 7 foot bank shot. He also wasn’t passing the eye test. He looked indecisive and wasn’t taking it to the basket with the reckless abandon he had been earlier in the game. The injury took him off the hook. Any contributions he made following the injury were gravy, like the big 3 pointer he stuck with less than 3 minutes to play.
This may be a flaw, albeit a big one, that we have to accept LeBron will always possess. He’s not a consistently clutch player late in games and sometimes he flat out melts down. LeBron’s brilliance though is undisputable. He is clearly the best the game has to offer and the most talented player in NBA history. And I think it’s fitting that Chalmers and company finally lent a man, who had to carry a subpar Cavs team for 7 seasons, a helping hand when he needed it most. Maybe LeBron doesn’t have to do it all by himself and in the end that’s a good thing. They do say that basketball is the ultimate team sport.
Despite my prediction for this series, I think the Heat will win Game 5. They’ll play with a reckless abandon knowing they are 48 minutes from a title. Along with what should be a frenzied crowd they’ll probably overcome a Thunder team that just seems a tad young to win a title. If Miami somehow loses though watch out. The Thunder will feel like they have been brought back from the dead and with the last two games in their building the Heat’s playoff dreams will likely die in Game 7 in a sea of aqua blue t-shirts and rhythmic clapping.
A Staff Writer for RotoExperts, Tamer Chamma is a two time top 50 Finalist in the WFAN Fantasy Phenom contest as well as a weekly guest on the SiriusXM "RotoExperts" morning show. Tamer is also a fill-in co-host for the show. You may contact Tamer @ firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @RotoExperts_TC