The NBA Finals resume Thursday evening, but they ended last night. For all intents and purposes it’s all over. Lebron James and his Miami Heat have no intentions of going back to Oklahoma City until next season. They want to put an end to the series on their own court before their own fans.
Barring an unforeseeable miracle, that’s exactly what they will do by 11:30 Eastern Standard Time.
The Heat’s 104-98 win over the Thunder was the difference between a two-man game and a team. Going into the series, it was assumed it was Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden who were the new “Big 3” and James along with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh were three superstars trying to learn how to play as teammates.
Oh, what a difference ripping off three straight wins makes. The Thunder hasn’t played bad, but the Heat has played lights out. When OKC ripped off a lead in the first quarter that stretched to 17 points, the Heat played it cool. Beyond their own Big 3, they got major contributions from point guards Mario Chalmers (25 points) and Norris Cole who came off the bench to knock down two three-pointers that chipped away at the Thunder’s lead.
Durant scored 28 points and Westbrook led all scorers with 43. Westbrook is a score first-pass second point guard who trusts his own abilities more than he trusts any teammate not named Durant. With good reason as it turns out. Harden has been more bust than bad-ass in the Finals. He was 2 of 10 shooting in Game Four including an embarrassingly botched breakaway(slam? lay up?). Harden is stinking up the series with his lousy play.
The rest of the Thunder scored a total of 19 points. Derek Fisher is old, slow, and simply can’t play anymore. Fisher’s stats for the game: 22 minutes, no assists, no points, no rebounds, no turnovers, one steal and the one shot he yoked up was a bricked three-pointed that only served to waste a fast break opportunity.
For all the criticism of Westbrook for not being a distributor as the point guard, Fisher, 37 years old with 15 years experience, has been absolute garbage. The biggest favor he could do for the team is to retire today and let somebody play tomorrow who looks like they belong on the court instead of an assisted living facility.
But this is less about the Thunder blowing it than it is the Heat winning it. James is playing fiercely. There’s none of the dancing, joking and playing around with a mock camera as he did in his last season with the Cavaliers. He’s dialed in completely and whatever it takes for him to win his first championship James is willing to do. He’s rebounding, scoring, distributing, playing lockdown “d” and making the rest of his teammates step up their game. James is on a mission and he will not be denied.
The Thunder certainly has shown they have no idea how to do it. Lebron is too strong for Durant, too big for Harden, too fast for any of the useless Thunder big men.
Last year when he was being humiliated by the Dallas Mavericks, James was the best player in the NBA with the worst reputation. People were pulling for him to lose, including me. He made himself easy to root against after his awful kiss-off to Cleveland with the brain-dead debacle that was “The Decision” After that farce he went from King James to “LeGone James” and why not? What was he supposed to be king of anyway?
I’m still a little frosty by the graceless way he left, but I can’t deny Lebron his due. He is the best player in the NBA and has proven it by his play throughout the playoffs. Now that he is standing on the verge of finally winning his first championship, only the most hardcore of Lebron haters can refuse to recognize the grandeur of his reign over the basketball world.
Ready or not, it’s time to hail the King.
- Who’s to Blame for OKC Thunder’s Loss to Miami Heat in Game 3 of NBA Finals? (bleacherreport.com)
- NBA Finals Game 4 (theesposito.com)