The NBA Finals Recap: A Tale of Two Teams

The King has ascended to his throne. (via @jadande)

The Miami Heat have won the 2012 NBA Finals, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder four games to one. In a series full of close games, with the lone double digit win came from an 11 point Thunder victory in Game 1, Miami had at one point a 27 point lead adnd played as close to a perfect game of basketball that we’ve not only seen all playoffs, but all year.

Their offensive attack was fueled by their stars, but bolstered by their role players, especially Mike Miller, who scored 23 points on 7-8 shooting from three. Unanimous NBA Finals MVP LeBron James, playing yet another out of this world game, led the team with 26/11/13, his first triple double of the season coming in the last and most important game of the year.

I know in my recaps, I’ve been saying what I believe we have all learned after watching Game X, but with the season now over and a champion crowned, it feels more appropriate to speak on where these teams now stand after this very fun series to watch. Here is where the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder lie now after the 2012 NBA Finals.

The Miami Heat

Ever since July 8, 2010, there has arguably never been a team more reviled, disliked, and straight up hated than the Miami Heat. Ever since that day, there has arguably never been a bigger villain in all of sports than LeBron James. But just as Wes Mantooth says to Ron Burgandy in the bear exhibit, we don’t have to like the Heat or LeBron, but after what they accomplished, we have to RESPECT them. Ever since Game 4 of the Pacers series, this team has played some pretty amazing basketball. Ever since that game as well, we’ve been treated to the best basketball of the most talented player in the NBA.

You’ve seen all his stats on a nightly basis and the outstanding numbers he’s put up, all with more pressure on his shoulders to fulfill an impossible destiny that the world wrote for him when he was a senior at St. Vincent, St. Mary’s High School.

I was seven years old when Michael Jordan won his 6th title with the Bulls. I had been a basketball fan long enough to watch his two title runs in full, but even though I knew I was watching something special, I couldn’t comprehend it to it’s full degree. But watching LeBron in these playoffs, since really becoming a student of the game and admiring it on a deeper level, I don’t remember seeing a more dominant performance ever. The only thing I can think of that compares to this was Dirk Nowitzki’s play last year on his way to a title, but he din’t get his team involved anywhere as much as James did this postseason. It took for this guy to go down 2-1 to Indiana to go into assassin mode, playing to 110% of his abilities. He put everything together, leaving us all in awe of pure, utter dominance in it’s most ruthless form.

I understand that you can hate LeBron James and this Heat team. I know that it may make some people mad that they accomplished their goal; that Pat Riley’s superstar Big Three experiment worked. But if I’m correct in the majority of opinions I’ve seen on Twitter and elsewhere, it feels like the NBA fan community does respect what LeBron and his team have done.

James went out and won his title, being the best player on the floor every minute he was in the game. He’d drive hard to the basket to score, crash the rim to pull down a board, attract all the attention and kick it out to a teammate for a wide open look and an assist. It was breathtaking… I have no other word for his body of work these finals but breathtaking.

His personally growth in these playoffs has also been commendable. He talked about being humbled last year by Dallas. Playing the game with anger because of his emotions last year instead of happiness. And who can blame him with what he went through. Now don’t get me wrong, it was nearly all self imposed by the way he spurned Cleveland and handled himself. But this must win attitude, saving his celebration in a game that was over midway through the third for the last two minutes was interesting to see. LeBron wasn’t content with anything other than a title and now he can stop hearing the ringless jokes, the Twitter hate, any garbage out of Skip Bayless’ mouth. Because ladies and gentlemen, like it or not, but LeBron James is an NBA Champion.


A kicker for Miami all series wasn’t the play of their other two superstars to go with LeBron, although Wade and Bosh both did have huge impacts on the series. Everyone knew those two would come to play and the Thunder knew D-Wade and Bosh would get there’s. The thing that really put Miami over the top was that their role players were better than OKC’s. It’s hard to imagine that if you saw that at the beginning of the series, but night in and night out, it rang to be true. Shane Battier in Games 1 and 2, Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers in Game 4, and as he’ll be called from now on in OKC, Mike effen Miller tonight. Miller’s performance helped Miami shoot an amazing 14-26 from three, just under 54%. You’re not losing a game in all likelihood when you make 14 three pointers, especially when they are momentum draining threes for the other team. The Heat got scoring from places other than their stars, which it takes to win an NBA Title. Scoring that last year came from the likes of Jason Terry, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson, and Jason Kidd, and NOT from Miami’s roster. Just like what happened to the Thunder, who we will get to in a moment.

In two seasons, just two years, this Miami Heat team that has been picked apart by the columnist, the Internet, Sports Center, and the rest of the world on a daily basis, has been to two straight NBA Finals and has won a Championship, with little likes of any other team in the East stopping them from getting to more. The Heat’s window is their’s right now, and they have visions of a dynasty running in their head. It took losing to the Mavericks last year, to beat the Thunder this year. But the same could be said about the Thunder in just a year’s time…

The Oklahoma City Thunder

“Well, we’re not frontrunners. We’re not guys that are just happy when things are going well. It’s the toughest time we’ve ever been through, and we want to do the same thing we would do if we won the game. We hug each other, tell each other how much we love playing alongside each other, and thank them for what they’ve done all season, every guy down the line, coaches, everybody that worked with us every single day, and we worked together and worked hard every single day. We just thanked each other for this season. But we all know this hurts. We’ve got to continue to keep working.” – Kevin Durant, on hugging his teammates and Thunder personnel after the loss.

Teams, no matter how talented and gifted they are, need to pay their dues. The NBA doesn’t just crown winners. No championship has ever come the easy way in this league. That rang true for the Oklahoma City Thunder in this series. Despite being the popular pick heading into the Finals to take home the Larry O’Brien trophy, it wasn’t meant to be. They ran into the unstoppable force AND unbeatable object that was LeBron this series and after winning Game 1 at home, lost four straight.

Looking at OKC once the game completely slipped away in the third, they never gave up trying to come back, even though they knew the game was over. Watching Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook subbed out of the game for the last time was tough; they’re competitive, never say die attitudes hadn’t stopped fighting like they had all series, but the clock gave them no choice. There would be no Game 6, no return to OKC to play for their fans one more time. The team had come short of their goal in their first NBA Finals test, but their efforts hadn’t.

As the game continued and OKC’s Gum Gang entered for mop up action, there were the Thunder’s stars, still cheering for their teammates till the final buzzer. You had to wonder what thoughts were running through their heads as the clock began to wind down on their season; maybe they wondered what would’ve happened if a break or two had fallen their way in the three previous games? Maybe they pondered what would be happening if they had made a play here or there, winning a close game instead of losing it, what things would be like, going back to Chesapeake Energy Arena, being down only 3-2, or maybe even up 3-2. But they instead were facing reality. Time had run out for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

If I can pinpoint one reason for why OKC lost these Finals that wasn’t LeBron James being the best player on the planet, it would be that past an overall great Finals from KD and Russ, no one else stepped up when they needed to for OKC. Their bigs were hurting them more than helping against a smaller and quicker Miami frontline. Kendrick Perkins final +/- of the Finals? -25. Serge Ibaka’s? -42. James Harden was taken over for the majority of the series by the magnitude of he moment, playing his worst basketball of the season. he pitched in 19 points tonight, tied with Westbrook, but it wasn’t what the Thunder were hoping to get from their third option.

When honestly breaking down the games, it’s tough to call Harden, let alone anyone the third option in this series. KD and Russ seemed to be the only players in each of these five games that showed up prepared to battle on a nightly basis. The production from the role players the Heat got, never came from OKC. Never was there a game that anyone else on the Thunder roster could you point to and say, “hey, Player A or Player B really played a vital role for OKC and their efforts tonight”, outside of Nick Collison and Thabo Sefolosha in Game 1. Collison kept his play constant all series, finishing with a total +/- of +13, but Sefolosha’s defense wained in it’s successfulness and his offense, or lack there of, was garbage. Perkins and Ibaka didn’t have a single meaningful moment, heck, a single meaningful PLAY in all five games! And while I have an unlimited word count and limitless space, that’s still not enough room to talk about how innefective and awful Derek Fisher was. It was too much for two players, no matter how good they are, to take on that Heat team.

via @Jose3030

While OKC did not put forth a good team effort this series, it was still a powerful thing to see Durant, Westbrook, and Harden locked in arms together on the bench to support their squad, yet heartbroken by their predicament. Then, to see the whole group hugging each other, their coaches, their owner Clay Bennett, and all team personnel after the game ended, brings me back to what I started this Thunder post with.

No team should ever have a championship come easy. It’s the way the NBA has worked. So few teams have actually taken home that desived hardware. Since 1991, only the Bulls, the Rockets, the Spurs, the Lakers, the Pistons, the Heat, the Celtics, and the Mavericks have won the NBA Title. 21 years, 8 teams. This is not supposed to be easy, and OKC learned that.

I firmly believe 100% that Heat-Thunder can be the new Lakers-Celtics of our generation. I would not be shocked to see these two franchises face off in the finals every single year that either LeBron James is in a Miami Heat uniform, or Kevin Durant is in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform. This battle will not be one sided, either. Looking at the pain in Kevin Durants eyes as he hugged his mother on the way to the locker room brought me to the very edge of tears as I felt my eyes water up. You can tell that all this kid and all those players in those blue jerseys want to do is win. In the past three years, they have lost to the Lakers, the Mavericks, and now the Heat, or as you better know them, the last three NBA Champs. The video contains the next most powerful moment of the behind the scenes shots outside the Thunder’s locker room after tonight’s game. After Durant finishes embracing his family, he notices the hallway camera and stares straight at it for a split second:

You know what that look says? It says, “You bet I’m gonna be back here next year, and nothings gonna keep me from being the one that’s doing the celebrating.”

********************************

These NBA Finals obviously went much shorter than anyone thought they would. Some thought six games, most thought seven. But by no means was this a poor finals. It was full of exciting, edge of your seat moments, superstars showcasing the best they had to offer, and legacies forming, while also re-writing history. Gone are the Internet’s jokes of the ringless King, the trolls of LeBron James, the questions of his unfulfilled legacy. Still to be seen is the future of this rivalry between these two squads. Hope remains that we may see these two teams face off to test themselves, as they are in a lone class of greatness in the best talent period of basketball since Jordan’s reign. Basketball has never been better, until next year, when we pray to see Oklahoma City and South Beach host yet another NBA Finals. May it and the 2012-13 season come as soon as possible and may we all be treated by this golden matchup for years to come.

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