NBA Finals 2012: Dear Basketball Gods, Let This Heat-Thunder Series Go 7 Games
Two games into the 2012 NBA Finals, and we've had two instant classics.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh versus Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden for the 2012 NBA championship. The top two finishers in this year's MVP voting going mano-a-mano all series long. You don't have to say anything more.
Naturally, in the days leading up to Game 1, this series generated considerable hype, based on the on-paper matchups.
Luckily, unlike Prometheus, this series has lived up to all those expectations and then some.
The Heat opened up a 13-point first-half lead in Game 1; the Thunder had wiped it out with five minutes gone in the second half. Durant and James each scored 30 or more points in the game.
Even better: Durant and Westbrook outscored the entire Heat team in the second half.
You want star power? You've got star power.
After dealing with two days of "What's wrong with the Heat?" questions, Miami came out in Game 2 on fire, opening up a 25-8 lead in the first quarter to silence the typically raucous Oklahoma City crowd.
The Thunder had a much tougher time cutting into Miami's lead in Game 2, comparatively. Every time they cut the Heat's lead to less than 10, a Miami player would respond with a critical basket on the other end, driving the lead back up to double digits.
That is, until the fourth quarter.
Westbrook opened up with a pull-up jumper to cut Miami's lead to 78-69, but again, Miami responded with four straight points.
Then Kevin Durant, the early favorite for Finals MVP, took over. K.D. knocked down a three-pointer to shave Miami's lead to 10, then drove in transition and dunked on Shane Battier's head to bring the Thunder the closest they'd been since the second quarter.
The Thunder unleashed a wicked rally in the fourth quarter, keyed by Durant's 16 points, with none more critical than his final three-pointer. Derek Fisher somehow stole the ball from Wade with less than a minute left and the Thunder down five, allowing Durant to drain the epitome of an "onions" bucket.
But unlike in Game 1, the rally came too little, too late, allowing Miami to take Game 2 and steal home-court advantage.
Here's a fun fact, folks: Besides a Battier three-pointer, each team's Big Three scored every single one of their team's points in the fourth quarter of Game 2. (Unbelievable, but true.)
Game 1 of this series already was the highest-rated Game 1 in ABC history, and here's guessing the trend holds true for Game 2 as well.
The NBA must be thanking the basketball gods for this superstar-laden matchup, especially after the negative P.R. the league generated during the lengthy lockout last summer. We went from not being sure we'd have a season to witnessing an epic duel between Durant and James, with an NBA championship at stake.
Who wins the 2012 NBA Finals?
At this point, one thing appears clear in this series: No lead is safe. Both of these teams love rattling off huge runs in the span of a few minutes, as each have proven so far this series.
Beyond that, it seems that the superstars on each team understand what's at stake here. It's not just about a championship anymore. It's about validation of their model of basketball. It's about a superiority battle between Big Threes.
It's about getting the upper hand on what very well could be only the opening chapter in a long, fierce rivalry.
So, basketball gods? I don't ask you for much, besides, you know, making sure we actually have a season each year.
But I'm feeling greedy, so I have to ask: Can you make this series go seven games, please?
Doing so may drive all of Oklahoma City to the brink before Game 7. And it'll assuredly mean hundreds, if not thousands of columns picking apart just about every aspect imaginable of the Heat franchise.
It's worth it, though. Two teams this elite, playing basketball at this high of a level, is nothing short of a treat for casual fans and basketball aficionados all in the same.
Here's to hoping for five more games of basketball greatness.
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