The Miami Heat are trying to silence their doubters. Those doubters are largely anyone outside of the state of Florida. And they are succeeding so far. With a close victory Tuesday night in South Beach, they took a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Thunder.
Teams trailing three games to one are 0-30 all-time in the NBA Finals, so things certainly look bleak for OKC.
The Thunder came out firing in Game 4, taking an early 17-point lead. The Heat's Norris Cole hit a three late in the first, and another one to open the second that sparked a 16-0 Miami run.
The Thunder were playing from behind the rest of the game.
Russell Westbrook was almost unstoppable when he went to the basket, scoring a game-high 43 points. He shot 20-32 from the field. "Shots were falling," Westbrook told the Associated Press. "It really doesn't mean nothing. We didn't come out with the win."
Without Westbrook, the Thunder would have been run out of the gym. Their offense was stagnant and most possessions came down to a one-on-one play. The ball stopped moving when they got down, something that has plagued this young Thunder squad throughout the playoffs.
LeBron James played like the MVP he is, recording 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. A triple-double eluded the superstar largely due to leg cramps late in regulation that kept him on the bench. In true NBA style, James acted like he had a bone coming through his skin, needing help on and off the court, but was just fine when the whistle blew, hitting a key three with time winding down.
Mario Chalmers poured in 25 points—as did Dwyane Wade—in the winning effort.
Game 5 will be Thursday night in Miami. The Thunder will need to make some monumental changes if they are going to send this series back to Oklahoma City.
Their three-point shooting has been miserable and their free-throw shooting hasn't been much better, both key strengths throughout the playoffs. Basketball is a game of runs, and this young Thunder team is showing their immaturity by not being able to handle the Heat's runs.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks needs to get his guys re-focused. They need to stick with their offense and stop playing And-1 Mixtape basketball when they start falling behind. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins need to be weapons in the paint. The last two games, they have largely disappeared.
As for Miami, they need to keep doing what they're doing well: Let James run the offense, and everyone else can make open shots.
If the Heat can maintain their focus, they will win the title on Thursday night. I think the Thunder are a very good team, and I expect them to win Game 5. Durant will assert himself and be the dominant player he is used to being.
I predicted the score of Game 4 within one point, and my prediction for Game 5 is Thunder over Heat, 97-94. It will be another great game.
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