The Miami Heat are one step closer to winning a second NBA championship in the franchise’s history after the 104-98 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder last night.
The Thunder came out strong for the first time this series but the 17 point lead quickly fizzled as Miami went on a 13-0 run in the second quarter and eventually tying the game with under 2 minutes remaining in the half. The Thunder would lead at the break but the often quiet Miami crowd was hot and happy their team was only down by 3 points.
Many say hard work is what will win games; Chris Bosh personifies this adage with his hustle on both ends of the floor. The entire Miami team was diving on the floor every play and making the necessary tips to teammates that decided the game.
A Russell Westbrook foul with 13.8 seconds to go and down by 3 sealed Oklahoma City’s fate. Their was a jumpball situation that ended up going to 6’11” Kevin Durant but was tipped by Heat player Shane Battier to an open Mario Chalmers. With only 5 seconds left on the shot clock the plan would have been to let Miami work for a difficult shot. Westbrook didn’t see it that way as he thought the clock reset to 24 seconds and fouled Chalmers.
The young Thunder are one game away from tasting what Miami did last year; defeat.
OKC played well and didn’t turn the ball over which was what the team was famous for during the regular season. The intensity was apparent and the game showed in the first half. All was well until the second half in which the Thunder fizzled out to a strong Miami Heat team.
Kevin Durant finished with 28 points, shooting 9-19, but only recorded 2 rebounds the entire game with his first coming in the 3rd quarter. He only put up 19 shots and for a superstar, 19 is not enough to stay in a rhythm in a big game. Russell Westbrook shot 32 shots and made 20 of them shooting above 62% percent from the field.
The story for the Thunder was the ineffectiveness of Kendrick Perkins who scored 4 points and only had 3 rebounds in his 17+ minutes of play. The other more frightening tale for OKC is the disappearance of James Harden who is the regular season 2012 Sixth Man of the Year award winner.
Harden scored 8 points on 2-10 shooting and had 4 turnovers. He could not get a rhythm and his confidence looks shaken to a point where he cannot be and influence on the game.
No one else on the Thunder team made more then 3 field goals with most of the team, besides Durant, Collison and Westbrook, making two. The OKC team looked young and scared to be on the big stage in the second half with the exception of Westbrook. The Heat suffocated them and made scoring hard and uncomfortable.
Lebron James, though hampered by what looked like muscle cramps in his left leg, provided everything needed to ensure victory before he left the floor. James filled the stat sheet again with 9 rebounds, 12 assists and 26 points on 10-20 shooting. Dwayne Wade also provided a lift along with starting point guard Mario Chalmers.
Chalmers tied Wade for the second most points in a Heat uniform with 25 points and did it on 9-15 shooting(3-9 3pfg) and in 33+ minutes. Chalmers played great defense along with the rookie Norris Cole who notched 8 points as well.
With Shane Battier who is averaging 14 points per game this finals only scoring four points all game Chalmers made it his duty to take on more than his fair share of the scoring load including a layup with a minute plus left and the pair of clutch free throws with 13.8 remaining.
Going into the game their were many dynamics at play with Ibaka’s comments on the Lebron James’ defense and the importance of Miami closing at home as well as the Thunder getting back home at all. The final whistle blew and the Heat are 48 or so minutes away from a Championship.
Game 5 is on ABC, Thursday night @ 9pm eastern time. Enjoy