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121-106. To be honest with you, no one will remember the last sixty-something points that were scored in this game. The Heat's third-quarter stomp-fest sealed this one early and the remaining game time was merely a formality as sportswriters across the country began writing their lead-ins.*
I'm not going to spend a lot of time discussing what this means. There will be plenty of time for that by writers better than myself, but this championship will reverberate more than most. Congrats to the Miami Heat, congrats to LeBron James.
*Or polishing off their 9th beer, in some cases**
**Only mine, probably.
We're halfway through the 4th quarter in what will be the penultimate game of the 2011-2012 NBA season and the only questions that remain are "by how much will the Heat win?" and "how will Skip Bayless spin this on First Take tomorrow?"
In a vacuum, the story of this game has been Stinky Mike Miller and his seven three-pointers, but this game was not played in a vacuum. No, this game is about LeBron James and there's no use pretending it's not. He's gonna be lifted from the game soon, and he'll head to the bench having contributed 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists.
He's earned every bit of this.
After a nice run to start the second half and pull within five, the Thunder have been absolutely manhandled by the Heat. You guys remember the Lion King? Remember the wildebeest stampede, the one that killed Mufasa and almost killed Simba? That's what the last ten minutes of the game have felt like -- an unending, reprieve-less onslaught with enough malicious intent to not only win this game, but loosen the very rivets that hold the Thunder's souls in check.
At this point, Oklahoma City is trying to crawl their bloody way out of a street beatdown but LeBron and Co keep grabbing them by the ankles and dragging them back into the scrum. It's time for the Miami PD to break out the chalk outlines and start dusting for prints.
Miami is clearly not content to just let the clock wind down. No, they're playing the third quarter like the Thunder just slapped their mama. They're using sledgehammers to drive the nails into the coffin tonight.
The Miami Heat are winning by a lot, is my point.
In six second-half minutes, LeBron James has only taken one shot, yet logged two rebounds and four assists. He has 15/7/9 for the game. He's on pace for 24/11/14 on just 16 shots. He's 270 pounds.
The scoreboard says that the Miami Heat are beating the Oklahoma City Thunder, 59-49. It feels, however, like they're winning 132-7; eerily reminiscent of Game One, when OKC thundered (ahem, sorry) back to win convincingly. Every time I look up, it seems like LeBron is fiishing at the rim or Mike Miller is splashing a three-ball. Durant and Westbrook, however, have done a hell of a job of keeping the Thunder relevant.
Notable stat lines:
LeBron James - 6-9 shooting, 15 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists
Dwyane Wade - 4-6, 9 points, 3 rebounds
Mike Miller - 12 points, 4-4 from three-point range
Chris Bosh - 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks
Kevin Durant - 15 points, 8 rebounds, 6-14 from the field
Russell Westbrook - 13 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2-9 from field, 9-9 from free throw line
Jacson Bevens - 4.5 beers (Bridgeport Brewer's Choice)
James Harden - 8 points, 6-6 FTs
Thabo Sefolosha - 0, 0, 0, 0, 0-2
Listed below are the contributions Kendrick Perkins has made to his team during the NBA Finals.
Thanks for reading.
I've long contended that part of the criticism leveled at LeBron James is his penchant for pass-first play, leading to a lot of missed shots by teammates. I've also always thought that that was largely a lazy and uninformed opinion, as his decisions to pass out of double-teams to wide open teammates is the right basketball play. NBA players should hit open shots more often than not. Unfortunately for LeBron, those shots, especially the crunch-time ones, are all too often missed.
Not this series.
Shane Battier, James Jones, Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers, and now, finally, Mike Miller (4-4) are all hitting the open looks when defenses collapse on James and, less frequently, Dwyane Wade. So far tonight, Miami is a remarkable 7-12 from downtown; major reason that they are ahead by 17 with five minutes left in the first half and just 29 minutes from locking up LeBron's first title.
When James' teams have lost in the past, he shouldered a disproportionate amount of the blame, while his under-achieving teammates were spared their share. Now, if Miami wins tonight, they will likely mis out on their share of the credit. Nature of the beast, I suppose. For what it's worth, however, LeBron is 5-6 from the field with 5 rebound and 5 assists accompanying his 13 points.
The second quarter has just started, and Russell Westbrook has made seven free throws. He's the game's leading scorer with 11. I've said all along that the most over-hyped criticism of the series has been getting on Westbrook for shooting too much, despite numbers strongly indicating that the Thunder do better when he shoots more. In fact, Oklahoma City wins nearly 77% of their games when Westbrook takes more shots than Kevin Durant, while winning only 65% of the time when Durant shoots more.
Those are simplified numbers, but the point remains that Westbrook is at his best, for himself and his team, when he's attacking with the ball. We're always saying how much better Westbrook is for getting to play with Durant, but there's a high probability that the inverse is also true. Durant is deathly efficient, but Westbrook's all-attack, all-the-time style allows Durant to pick his spots more than if opponents only had to focus on him on the perimeter. There are criticisms of Westbrook's game to be made, but saying that he shoots too much isn't one of them.
Mike Miller, injured three-point specialist and defensive liability, just hit his first three-pointer of the series. It's Game Five.
After Serge Ibaka idiotically said that LeBron James wasn't good at defense, I got really excited to Story-Stream Game Four in anticipation of James and he converging at the rim and the universe exploding. It didn't really happen, as Ibaka was largely invisible and the whole internet has talked about how good James was. Plus I was geeked to write a whole bunch of LeBronageddon-vs-Ibakalypse jokes.
I finally get my wish as James blows past his guy to attack Ibaka in the paint. James nets the hoop, gets the foul, and some impressive chest-out stare-down time. Six minutes in, James has 7 points and 3 rebounds. If the Heat lose tonight, it doesn't look like it's gonna be because of him. 22-15, Miami.
Frenetic, sloppy play has marked the first few minutes of Game Five, which if you've been reading anything by any sports reporter over the last couple of days, is just a series of motions the teams must go through before LeBron James finally receives his first ring.
It's funny, cuz it feels like ofcourseMiamiwillwintonightbecausetheThunderaresoyoungandlookhowmuchbetterandolderandtoughertheHeataresolet'sjustgetthisoverwith. Additionally, no team has ever recovered from a 3-1 deficit in an NBA Finals before, so history won't let the Thunder win either, right? It's the problem inherent with outcome-based perspective. The Heat have won three games in a row, so it feels like they've dominated the series even though every single game has been in doubt with one minute left except for Game One, which the Thunder won. It's been a phenomenally evenly-played series and I think OKC is extremely aware that win tonight means that all they gotta do is hold serve at home and the title is theirs.
The determining factor tonight will likely be how complacent or focused Miami's best players are. If they assume it's in the bag, they could lose by 20 to a youngry team desperate to survive. If they approach this game with the same tenacity they've showed all series, then they should be able to close it out.
Anyhow, it's 11-10, Miami now, with 6:30 left in the first. The first developing story line is Dwyane Wade's two fouls. And as I wrote that, Thabo Sefalosha just picked up his second, meaning that OKC's LeBron-stopper may have to check himself.
This is setting up to be a remarkable finish. I'm gonna stay with you on this update until the end of the 4th.
With the score 92-86, Miami, Shane Battier gets called for a foul after Kevin Durant's miss had already been rebounded and dribbled twice in the other direction. Now 94-89 with 2:30 left, the constant double-teaming of LeBron James has confounded him and his teammates. LeBron is eager to pass out of the double, but the Thunder are getting back into position immediately after he does, making everyone else's shots tough too.
Oh damn! With Kevin Durant challenging LeBron in transition, his missed lay-in was slammed home by Russell Westbrook in a remarkable display of athleticism. What Nate Robinson is capable of in an empty gym, Russell Westbrook does with two people guarding him. Incredible explosiveness at the rim. Miami's resulting three-point lead is the smallest since it was 6-2 in the first quarter.
1:47 left, Durant and Westbrook have combined for 20 4th-quarter points so far, while James and Dwyane Wade only have five. I'm still convinced that nary a butt has touched a seat since tip-off and, as much as I hate admitting it, the Thunder crowd is deafening to the point that the announcers are practically shouting to call the game.
Sensational 15-foot bank shot by LeBron stretches it back to five. At some point he's going to need to start challenging the double-teams instead of passing out of it every time. That said, it's another 30-point game for LBJ, his fifth straight in this postseason.
Right now, an out-of-bounds call originally ruled in OKC's favor is being reviewed with Miami up five and 1:11 left on the clock. This is gonna a huge call...
Refs give it to the Heat.
Terrific drive by Wade off of a James screen, drew the help defense, then dumped it to Chris Bosh for a dunk. Seven point lead after Miami's "Big Three" show laudable teamwork down the stretch.
Seven points in 53 seconds is a supremely tall order, but perhaps no team in the league has a better shot at it than the Thunder. And as soon as I finish typing that, Durant knifes to the rim for a point-blank bucket. Five point game with 48 to go.
Steal by Fisher, pass to Durant, three is good. Good grief!
This game, you guys. Thunder with the rebound after a James miss. Timeout taken. 13 seconds left, Thunder down by two. I mean, you guys... just, I don't know. I don't know what to say.
Durant drives baseline, shoots with nine seconds left, and misses. Upon replay, Durant has a case for having been fouled by James. LeBron grabs the board and is fouled. He'll head to the line where he's 10-10.
Make that 12-12. Four point game. If this lead holds, the LeBron haters are gonna have to work real hard to find a foothold. Define clutch however you want to.
Desperation three by Westbrook goes clank, and the Miami Heat have evened up the series by stealing Game Two. It's now 1-1 with three of the remaining five games scheduled to be played in South Beach.
There's just something about the fourth quarter for the Thunder. Massive final-period comebacks against the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers already this postseason, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden have carved the 13-point lead to 4.
Durant's got that killer look back in his eye. 7-7 in the second half, 10 points in the fourth quarter, all of which have come after picking up his fifth foul. The dude is fearless, no way around it.
Kevin Durant don't care about five fouls. A catch-and-shoot three-pointer followed by a transition dunk has the crowd going bonkers and Heat fans shuddering at the thought of what he did in the fourth quarter of Game One. Miami's best defense so far has been an aggressive offense that has forced OKC to stay home throughout the possession. It'll be interesting to see if LeBron and Co keep playing with the type of purpose they've shown through the first three quarters.
Kevin Durant just picked up his fifth foul two minutes into the fourth quarter. In a recent timeout, LeBron James was heard telling his teammates that they're trying to hide Durant on defense, but to find him and go after him. No player in the league can guard Durant when he's feeling it, but none of that matters if he's on the bench with foul trouble.
A late-quarter run by the Thunder has whittled the Heat's 15-point lead to nine, but Kevin Durant has picked up his fourth foul with 16 minutes left to play in this game. It's terrible timing for Durant's fourth, as he has yet to miss in the second half and has 16 points.
The third quarter has been a revival for Durant, but they're not getting much closer since LeBron James put on his "determined Mufasa" face and now has 14 points in the quarter, 26 overall, and is 8-8 from the free throw stripe.
Now 1:37 to play in the third and Westbrook/Durant have recovered to score 16 each, though it's taken a combined 28 field goals attempted to get there. In fact, every mini-run that OKC's put together has been defiantly answered by Miami who is singly focused on getting the ball to the rim on nearly every possession this half.
A wild flurry ends the quarter with the Thunder shaving one point off of their 12-point halftime deficit. Best lines so far:
James (26 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists)
Wade (17, 5, 4)
Battier (14 points, 5-7 shooting)
Bosh (10 points, 13 rebounds)
Durant (16 points, 2 rebounds, 0 assists)
Westbrook (18 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 7-18 shooting)
Harden (17 points)
Ibaka (7 points, 4 rebounds, 4 blocks)
Perkins (negative everything)
Hey girl, just want you to know I've made four three-pointers already.
It's halftime and the Miami Heat are ahead 55-43. On the surface, it looks like the Heat are just outplaying the Thunder. If you've been watching the game, however, you're probably shocked that the lead isn't 20+. Miami has frustrated OKC's two wunderkinds, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (combined 5-19 shooting), and are dominating the transition game 10-0.
Oklahoma City has been relegated to shooting jump shots which, as I mentioned earlier is fine when they're falling but are a logistical nightmare when they're not. Furthermore, the Heat are getting to the rack with relative ease and although Serge Ibaka has done a nice job of protecting the rim when they get there, those drives have led to kick-outs for easy shots and Miami's not missing.
The only reason the Thunder are only down by a dozen is the shooting of James Harden (17 points). Harden is shooting with spear-throwing-in-an-ancient-war-scene accuracy while his teammates' shooting is more like henchman-in-a-chase-scene accuracy. So far, the Heat have been the older brother, pinning the young Thunder to the ground and only letting up enough to keep the younger brother from quitting altogether.
It's not safe to assume the second half will follow the same trend, however, since OKC dominated the second half in Game One en route to a comeback that led to a nine-point victory.
Notable first-half lines:
Dwyane Wade: 5-11, 13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists
LeBron James: 6-13, 12 points
Chris Bosh: 4-10, 10 points, 10(!) rebounds
Shane Battier: 3-4, 9 points
Kevin Durant: 3-9, 6 points
James Harden: 5-9, 17 points
Russell Westbrook: 2-10, 8 points, -17 +/- rating
LeBron James is quietly having a remarkable game. His line isn't anything that leaps out of the box score (10 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal), but his impact has been felt on every plank in the floor. He's making life hellish for Kevin Durant (3-9 shooting), has his hand in seemingly every passing lane, and is involved in every transitional possession, even if it's just to create space for the ball-handler.
Hustle is the one aspect of James' game that so often gets over-looked. Back when he played in Cleveland and everyone loved him, he made a bit of a name for himself defensively with a number of chase-down blocks. He hasn't had nearly as many of those since joining the Heat, but the Heat don't ever give up breakaways to other teams, so people have just forgotten how forceful his defense can be. Plus, we hate him now, amirite?
James Harden just keeps bringing it. He's now responsible for 56% of their 25 points, but the Heat continue to swarm everyone else and are turning ever inch of space the Thunder give them into points.
Wade (who spells his name D-w-y-a-n-e, weird right?) actually remembered to contribute during the first half, something he's frankly sucked at doing for the last two weeks and is pacing Miami with 11 points. Heat lead 37-29 but, judging by this crowd, you'd think it was OKC that was winning.
The big story of the second quarter so far has been that LeBron, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook have all seen pine time with two fouls. The refs have gotta be reluctant to put the three biggest stars in the game in foul trouble, so it'll be interesting to see how the game gets called from here on out.
Side note: Shane Battier shoots threes like a middle-schooler who's not strong enough to get the ball to the hoop normally. Huge gathering process and deep knee bend leading into an eager jump towards the rim. It ain't pretty to watch, but he's 3-4 from behind the arc so far.
Sorry for the delay in getting started, was having trouble getting everything formatted* but I seem to have it figured out now. I'm joining you during the final minute of the first quarter, and Miami is suffocating the Thunder, 25-12.
*I was actually having trouble choosing which beer would accompany these posts. Went with Alimony Ale. Nice hoppy number with the best tag line in the business: "It's irreconcilably different!"
A quick recap: LeBron James (8 points), Dwyane Wade (7 points) and Chris Bosh (4 points) are all off to great starts and the Thunder's jumpers aren't falling. In fact, James Harden (10 points) is the only one making any sort of an impact for OKC. See, that's the thing about the Thunder, they're a jump-shooting team and, although they're probably the best jump-shooting team in the NBA, they don't have reliable interior offense to fall back on when those Js aren't going down.
First quarter just ended with Miami leading 27-15. Non-Harden Thunders are just 2-16 from the field.
The Oklahoma City Thunder protected home court in their first-ever appearance in the NBA Finals by defeating the Miami Heat by a score of 105-94. Despite a strong first half of play by Miami, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the OKC bench was simply too much for the Heat to handle in the final 24 minutes of play.
"I thought we showed a lot of toughness in the second half," said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks.
Durant led all scorers with 36 points on 12-for-20 shooting, and also made eight of his nine free throw attempts. Westbrook was nearly as dominant while going for 27 points, bringing down eight rebounds and dishing out 11 assists. James Harden Struggled for most of the night and only had five points, but it was Nick Collison who was the story for the Thunder. The veteran big man had eight points and 10 rebounds in just 21 minutes, many of which came in the fourth quarter.
LeBron James had a fine game with 30 points, although he was limited for most of the fourth quarter until late. Dwayne Wade had 19, but needed an inefficient 17 shots in order to do so. Chris Bosh came off the bench once again and played 34 minutes, scoring 10 points and bringing down five rebounds during his time on the court.
"We had some great fans and they really gave us some energy in that second half," said Brooks.
The Thunder and Heat will meet up on Thursday night for game two of this series.
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