Before I sit down to write this post right now, I need to remind myself that this running series of mine is not about looking ahead at who we all think is going to win, who we think is going to raise a trophy on Thursday night, or any other night, or who we think has lost and stands no chance to come back. That’s not the purpose of these writings. These reactions are that, recapping what we just witnessed in Game X of the 2012 NBA Finals, and that’s what it’ll be again tonight. I doubt this is a reminder for you, as much as it is for me.
These are the four things we learned from Game 4 of the NBA Finals, after the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-98 to take a 3-1 series lead.
LeBron Is Unstoppable And He Gets It
But what hasn’t LeBron learned at this point? Has anyone done such an amazing job silencing all his doubters and infinite haters? LeBron, post up more, you’re the strongest player in the league! He posts up now. LeBron, no one can stop you when you attack the rim! Why even bother taking jumpers when you’re not good at them. The only thing that could keep him from stopping his ferocious attack was his sprain and he wouldn’t settle for any j’s. LeBron, time for the 4th, better run and hide! The guy embraces his challenges. Un-fricken-real.
It’s not like LeBron hasn’t done this at times in the past; he’s always shown his motor, his toughness, his ability to shine. But as ESPN’s Ryen Russillo pointed out earlier this week, the general public hated on him for his last series in Boston with the Cavs and the finals last year. Discounted everything else the guy has done in a nine year career because of five or six games. LeBron could always do these things, he’s just doing them all at the same time now.
His pro comparison in the past has been Magic Johnson because of his size, playmaking ability, and passing skills. Magic always did this, LeBron has started to do that now. I’m thinking about it, and LeBron tonight reminds me of Wilt Chamberlain. Wilt did whatever he wanted on the court. Average 50+ points a game. Sure. Lead the league in assists, sure. LeBron can choose to go out on a basketball court with a specific goal in mind, and right now, it feels like 99 times out of 100, that goal of his is going to come to fruition. The goals of his right now are not individualistic like Wilt. They’re team and individually based, if that makes sense. LeBron is playing for something more than anyone else out there. He’s playing for his teammates, yet also redeeming his brand, without thinking about his brand. I don’t know if that makes sense right now, but I’m trying my best and I feel like moving on. So yeah, LeBron’s out of this world*.
*Final line: 26/9/12. Seven of his ten field goals in the paint.
Russell Westbrook Had One Of The Best Finals Games In Over A Decade, Then Russell Westbrook-ed The End
43 points is amazing. Russell was amazing. His 20 made field goals are the most anyone has had in an NBA Finals game in the 21st Century. Every shot he took during his run in the forth, everyone’s thought was “going in”. Then it flickered through the net. He controls his body at the rim better than anyone else in the NBA right now, slowing himself down at his NBA JAM-like turbo speed, to hit circus layups around three defenders. He is the LONE reason OKC was up at any point late in the forth. The lone reason. No one else, not even Kevin Durant, who had only three shot attempts all 4th quarter, showed up to help. Certainly not James Harden, who after pretty terrible performances in all but Game 2, just may not be ready for this stage. Others tried to step up, but shouldn’t have. And I mean REALLY shouldn’t have.
Want to know one of the two turning points of the game? Both happened late in the forth. After an awe inspiring 13 straight points from Russ, the Thunder have things finally tied at 90 all. Just less than six minutes left. OKC gets the stop they need on defense as LeBron drives to the paint and loses his footing. Derek Fisher gets the steal. Now… What Derek Fisher should’ve done, was get the ball out of his hands as the Thunder had a fast break with LeBron down on the floor. But instead, Fisher decided to take his one shot of the night and got the stuff swatted. Shocker that a 6’1” guard driving to the middle of the paint, where Heat defenders had collapsed to wouldn’t think he’d get blocked. Well… as you saw, he did. And momentum stayed with the Heat from there on. LeBron, hurt and all, scores at the other end and the Heat go up two.
Yes the Thunder got a two point lead a couple possessions later, but that fast break chance was a momentous possession, one of the four to five plays Wade talked about at the end of the game being one the team who would ended up winning tonight was going to have to win. Miami won that play. It took Russ out of his JAM “fire” mode. LeBron needing the time out to come off the floor didn’t help OKC’s momentum either.
The other play is our next lesson, but let’s bring this back to Russ for a minute, even though that play has to do with him as well. OKC is so dang lucky to have this guy as their point guard and tonight was the reason why. Unfortunately for him, these late game mistakes are going to dampen his effort tonight. We learned tonight Westbrook doesn’t back down, a team can ride him to a win if he could get even a little help, and he is not afraid of any moment. His motor is a blessing, but also a curse. But do NOT blame him whatsoever for this lose tonight.
The Jump Ball Is the Second Turning Point
1.) If James Harden doesn’t tie up with Udonis Haslem for the jump ball, the last 0.7 seconds on the shot clock go off with Haslem barely controlling the ball. It;d be a Heat turnover and Thunder only down three with a timeout remaining.
2.) Miami gets five seconds back on the shot clock now if they win possession off the jump. Still not enough to run the clock out. I didn’t know this rule before Van Gundy said it. Apparently, neither did the Thunder or Westbrook.
3.) The ball tips into jump ball nothingness and bounces up towards Kevin Durant.
4.) Shane Battier and Serge Ibaka are standing next to each other on the jump ball. Battier break for the basketball. Ibaka stands and watches, not even attempting to put a body on the guy next to him*.
5.) Battier pokes the tip from Durant, Chalmers gets fouled cause Westbrook didn’t know the rule. Chalmers hits both free throws and the Thunder have to spend their last TO down five. You know how it ends from there.
*Ibaka never seems to block anyone out and watches the ball way too much.
Mario “Mother Effen” Chalmers
Before ABC went off the air, Dwyane Wade was saying he actual cuss of what’s above towards Chalmers in the most loving way possible. Chalmers was amazing. After zero points in the first, he finishes with 25, tied with Wade and one point behind LeBron for the most for Miami that night.
This whole series, if you’ve read this series of posts, you know I’ve been saying the Thunder were fine letting Shane Battier try to be the guy to beat you. Well that’s true, but Chalmers is a whole different case because the guy creates for himself. He can hit the three OR penetrate to the rim, while Battier is a corner shot up shooter, someone who can spread the court at best on offense. While he and Battier aren’t afraid of the big moments, it seems like Mario becomes even better in them. Players like Mario Chalmers and the contribution he gave tonight, as Royce Young of Daily Thunder said, help you win championships. The Heat may have very well just done that.
An amazing effort all around from Miami. Stellar stuff from the Heat. You can’t do anything but commend their effort in this series. We are 48 minutes away from the Miami Heat being NBA Champions. We’ll see if that comes to fruition in Game 5 in South Beach.