OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 98 @ MIAMI HEAT 104
NBA FINALS * Game 4 * Heat lead series, 3-1
That was a kick to the balls.
Oklahoma City, unlike the first three games, got off to an incredible start. Russell Westbrook was great. He made his first four shots in the first 4 1/2 minutes. The Thunder also got some early help from Nick Collison, who was nullified in the last two games. After a James Harden lay-up, the Thunder led, 33-16. However, little-used rookie Norris Cole made a three-pointer to cut the lead down to 14, giving the Heat a BIT of momentum going into the second quarter. Hope Cole continues to grow his hair, though, so he can be in the 2012 version of House Party.
That momentum increased exponentially. Cole made another 3-pointer to start the 2nd. And then James Jones got into the act. The Heat supporting cast helped Miami go on a 16-0 run before the relentless attack of Westbrook stopped the run. They went back and forth for a bit before OKC escaped with a 49-46 lead by the half. Russell Westbrook, who was much maligned despite a fantastic statline, led the Thunder with 18 points.
The Heat overtook the Thunder as Miami kept making open three-pointers. LeBron James went on his own barrage at the 3rd. He scored the last eight Miami points of the 3rd. Mario Chalmers was also starting to wake up. The Heat led, 79-75, at the end of 3.
Then Westbrook went berserk in the fourth. It seemed like NOBODY on the Heat could stop him. After Kevin Durant made a basket, Russ scored the next 13 points for the Thunder, erasing the Heat 7-point lead all by himself.
After that barrage, James went down with cramps and had to be taken out of the game. The Thunder then took advantage. Durant's perimeter jumper took the lead back for OKC, 94-92.
James went back for a little bit. And he made a huge three to break the 94-tie. But with LeBron too hobbled, he went back to the bench for good with 55 seconds left and Miami clinging to that three-point lead. But Chalmers (who had a BIG game) made a lay-up to push the lead back to 5.
Westbrook immediately countered with another shot inside the paint. And after a Wade airball, James Harden and Udonis Haslem got tied up with 17 seconds left. If Miami won the tip, the Heat only had five seconds left on the shotclock. The Thunder were going to get one more shot at it.
The Heat won the tip and nobody told Westbrook anything. Westbrook's immediate instinct was to foul and what a huge mistake it was. Mario Chalmers made the freethrows and put away the game. The Heat escape with the win and a chance to win the championship on Thursday.
Russell Westbrook's "wild play" has been criticized throughout these Finals and he's probably getting undeserved... HEAT (see what I did there?)... for fouling Chalmers. I do agree that he has to be aware of what's going on but he did it in the... HEAT... of the moment. Westbrook had done SO much and has tried SO hard. He was doing everything he could to win the game for the Thunder. Westbrook's game is to keep attacking. That's what he's known to do. Was the play dumb? Of course, it was. Will I blame him for losing the game? Let's put it this way: Westbrook finished with 43 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. I am not going to BLAME him for a loss because of one play. It was one of the better performances in the postseason this year. The Thunder wouldn't even be in the Finals if it weren't for Westbrook. So whatever fire is being thrown Russell's way? It's unfair. It really is. And I feel bad for him. This is like saying that it's Westbrook's fault because he didn't score 50. It sounds ridiculous.
I said the play was dumb... but it's also on the rest of the team to tell Westbrook he didn't have to foul anybody in that situation. Scott Brooks could've said something. Even Durant. But it was never communicated to him. It sucks for the Thunder that they lost like this.
Durant's 28 points were quiet compared to Westbrook's scorching hot 43. You know who was even more quiet? James Harden. 2 for 10 and 8 points. Needless to say, he has played horrific in the Finals. We'd probably be talking about how Miami needs to step it up if Harden is averaging his usual 16-17 points in the Finals.
Miami was getting open looks behind the arc. They made 10 for 26 while the Thunder only made 3 for 16. That's a 21-point differential. It'd be nice for the Thunder if they can make those threes. At least, OKC was making their shots from the stripe (15/16).
LeBron finished with a 26-9-12 line. You can't plaster him with insults anymore because he has joined Team Bring It. He has had some superb performances throughout these Finals.
Wade, while not as explosive as he used to be, finished with 25 points. And Mario Chalmers has hit big shot after big shot. He also finished with 25 points. Chris Bosh finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds. Also gotta give props to Norris Cole. His 8 early points helped bring the Heat back in the second quarter when the Thunder was rolling all over them.
The Heat are only one win away from the NBA title. This is what we've expected from them. This is the "super team" that we had been waiting for. And all the mudslinging that LeBron has taken over the past couple of years will cease if he finally wins that coveted trophy. It could signal a start of a new dynasty... and that would be scary for the rest of the league in the next few years.
No team has ever come back from a 3 games to 1 deficit in the NBA Finals. But if there's one team that could do it, it's the Thunder. They won four straight against the mighty San Antonio Spurs in the Western Finals. It's not like they had been badly outmatched by the Heat. Still, imagine the insults the Heat would get if they DID blow this 3-1 lead. I don't want to think about it.
All I know is that the NBA season COULD come to a close on Thursday. For the Thunder, it literally is at the point where they have to play this game like it's their last.
For the Heat? It's about fulfilling that destiny.
Game 5 might end it all.