Is LeBron James 48 minutes away from puncturing holes in a critic’s grandest argument?
Can Kevin Durant stop him?
Fans have heard the statistic comparing the Oklahoma City Thunder’s personally dug series holes to their predecessors in league history. There is not a single team in NBA history to go down 3-1 that has gone on to win three straight games to secure a Finals series win.
The Thunder have been down two games before, as they were down 2-0 in their last series vs. San Antonio in the Western Conference finals.
Only 14 teams in the history of the playoffs have ever gone down by two games only to come back and win the series.
The result? Kevin Durant showed up and the Thunder won four straight to become the 15th.
But that was then, this is now.
Oklahoma City had never lost three straight games this season, and coming into Game 4 against the Miami Heat was predicted to keep the trend afloat. Look at what they are working with. When the three-time league scoring champion in Kevin Durant, most athletic point guard in the game in Russell Westbrook, and Sixth Man of the Year in James Harden are on the same squad, the absurd becomes feasible.
However, that is only when the Thunder have control over their own destiny. Too much this series, they have relinquished that power to Miami’s defense, and the Heat have made them pay dividends every time.
LeBron James may have not dropped 40 points on the Oklahoma City Thunder, but James' fans have come to learn that he'll do whatever it takes to win. And if that means getting Mario Chalmers going in one of his best displays of the playoffs, so be it.
If it means Norris Cole hitting key three pointers early on to give Miami Heat spurts of momentum, so be it.
If it means pushing through agonizing cramps late in Game 4 to hit a three-point dagger over Thabo Sefolosha and limp over to the bench, then so be it.
James was not the sole wizard in Miami’s magic show, and he could not have been more pleased. Why? When the people around him are performing, it allows him to focus on the part of his game that makes him so great.
He can keep being everything for everyone and rest assured that his mistakes with be smoothed over by his teammates’ success.
Going into Game 4, there was more pressure than ever on Kevin Durant to stop the Miami Heat from going up with a commanding 3-1 series lead. The comparisons to Michael Jordan having never played a Game 7 in his career were being made. For Durant to try his hand at that type of legacy, he had to get over the Game 4 hurdle first.
Miami allowed Oklahoma City in. Still, the greatest players understand that it is never how you start, but always how you finish. Deep into the third quarter, James had only scored 12 points, but ended the game with 26, catching fire at the end of the quarter. He and Wade combined for 20 points in the third after combining for 20 points total in the first half of the contest.
That is something that we haven’t seen from Miami in a while.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
It was not too reminiscent of the 40-30 game the superstar duo put up against the Indiana Pacers, but both were key offensively as well as defensively to shut the Oklahoma City Thunder out. Not to mention that the big game Mario Chalmers was due for came to fruition.
Chalmers relived the big moments that made him such an attractive draft prospect coming out of Kansas. Though the analysts looking from the outside in have consistently badgered his potential and lack of athleticism, his teammates and coaching staff place the belief in him that allows him to get comfortable in moments like these.
In a Finals series where every move counts, Chalmers’ ridiculous body control and decision-making skills have been forced to the forefront as one of the primary reasons that Miami has control of this series.
As Game 5 will be played in Miami, Oklahoma City will have the pressure of the world on their shoulders. Although some of the pressure will be garnered by LeBron, Wade and Bosh to close out the series, Durant will have a target on his back for one of the first times in his career.
It will be an unrelenting boulder that could make or break him.
The Oklahoma City star has been crowned prematurely. It is a harsh thing to say about someone so young and with so much room to grow, but it is the truth.
While experience can sometimes be overrated, there is something to being a defined and cohesive group. Watching Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder has proven one huge fact among many less lethal to their future.
Kevin Durant has holes in his game.
He has been in foul trouble in both Games 2 and 3, and only scored six points in the fourth of Game 4. If Durant is not closing the game out in superstar fashion, the Oklahoma City Thunder can just skip it altogether. They haven’t won that way—and they won’t win that way.
Playing against a Miami defense that has gone through a scathing journey filled with bouts of low self-esteem and identity crises is not going to make it easy on the Thunder. It is going to force a maturation process that Oklahoma City has yet to deal with.
LeBron James is the highlight of it all. If Miami fails to close, he will be blamed. If Miami succeeds in winning an NBA championship, he will be praised—with asterisks, of course.
It will take a superstar to stop him in his tracks.
Russell Westbrook tried his hand at almost single-handedly winning Game 4 to tie the series with Miami with a playoff career high of 43 points on 20-of-32 shooting from the field. Yet, just like Rajon Rondo’s 40-point game against the Heat, without the best shooter on the floor performing to that level as well, the Thunder fell flat.
It can’t be a Robin. It has to be Batman.
Is Kevin Durant the superstar to bring LeBron back to reality?
History says no.