NBA Finals Report Card Grades for LeBron James and All the Stars, Coaches
The Miami Heat came close last year, but they wouldn't be denied a second time.
It's no secret that James had a series for the ages, but how did everyone else do?
From James Harden's insufferably woeful performance to Kevin Durant's masterpieces that came up ever so short, here are the grades for all the players and coaches who made the 2012 NBA Finals a memorable first for King James—and the first step for Durant's young and improving Thunder.
James Harden had an exceptional postseason up until this series, where his lone success came in Game 2 when he shot 7-of-11 for 21 points.
It was all downhill from there.
Harden had many painful performances that gave a whole new meaning to "Fear the Beard." Now it was Oklahoma City fans fearing what would happen each time this guy touched the ball. It wasn't pretty.
Harden twice shot just 2-of-10 and made 33 percent of his attempts another occasion. The 22-year-old Sixth Man of the Year looked his age for the first time all season, either frozen by the big stage or simply overwhelmed by the Miami Heat's quickness and length.
There's little doubt Harden will have a chance to redeem himself one day, and that day can't come soon enough.
Were it not for his exceptional Game 2, Harden would have a failing grade.
Kendrick Perkins' experience throughout the NBA Finals was emblematic of what the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder's supporting cast went through.
He's never meant to be much of a scorer, but he had a tough time staying on the floor in this series. Without a low-post scorer for him to body up against on defense, the Heat just weren't the best matchup for Perkins.
Otherwise valuable role players like Thabo Sefolosha and Derek Fisher similarly struggled to find the rhythms that propelled them through the Western Conference playoffs while losing just three games.
While guys like Shane Battier and Mike Miller capitalized on their opportunities to tilt the balance of games, the Thunder just couldn't find the same help.
It's always hard to know how much of the blame a coach should shoulder.
But it's even harder to believe that Scott Brooks did all he should have when his team lost its last four games in a row, especially when the margin of victory in three of those games was six points or less. The Thunder's slow start in Game 2 and blown lead in Game 4 stand out as the most baffling games.
His rotations seemed to play to Miami's strengths, and his insistence on pushing the tempo ultimately allowed the Heat to beat OKC at its own game.
The more troubling fact is this, though: Kevin Durant never shot the ball as much as he should have. Despite never shooting worse than 47 percent, the three-time scoring champion never took more than 24 field-goal attempts.
Brooks deserves a lot of credit for getting his young team this far, but if he can't get a guy like Durant the ball, we have a problem.
Serge Ibaka was a thorn in the side of the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals, but he was barely noticed against the Miami Heat. His mid-range jumper disappeared on him, and he didn't crack 30 minutes once in the series.
Ibaka scored 10 points in Game 1 and blocked five shots in Game 2, but he wasn't a factor when the series switched to Miami.
One might have imagined the Heat's lack of interior depth would give a guy like Ibaka the chance to cause some problems in this series, but that clearly didn't happen. Other than a few stray dunks, he was reduced to contested shots outside the paint.
Mike Miller had scored a total of eight points through the first four games of the series.
He scored 23 of them in Game 5 thanks to seven three-pointers that absolutely no one was expecting. Miller gets a solid grade because he answered the bell when it really counted.
What he lacked in consistency, he more than made up for with timeliness. For a guy who's struggled to contribute to the Heat after a number of injuries the last couple of years, his Game 5 heroics were apropos.
Russell Westbrook's gaudy numbers in the series might suggest he's deserving of a perfect grade at first glance, but that would confuse production for efficiency.
Westbrook shot better than 44 percent just once in the series, when he exploded for 43 points in a futile Game 4 effort. He shot just 10-of-26 in Game 2, a game that forfeited OKC's home-court advantage and ultimately any chance it had of returning the series to Oklahoma City.
With the finals on the line, Westbrook mustered his worst performance yet, making only four of his 20 field-goal attempts and scoring 11 of his 19 points at the free-throw line.
The versatile point guard averaged over six assists and six rebounds for the series, but he struggled to shine consistently as the sidekick Kevin Durant needed him to be.
Chris Bosh didn't look like an All-Star in this series, but then again, he didn't have to.
Outside of some subpar performances in Games 1 and 3, Bosh made some important contributions to Miami's effort, especially in Game 5, when he put up 24 points.
He also helped changed the paint dynamic in Game 2, grabbing 15 rebounds—eight of which were on the offensive end. A good case can be made that Bosh's offensive rebounds in Game 2 were every bit as valuable to changing the tone of the series as Shane Battier's three-pointers.
At the end of the day, Bosh was nothing but solid.
Were it not for Shane Battier's hot shooting in Game 2, when he made five of his seven three-point attempts, this series could very well have turned out differently.
For the series, Battier was 15-of-26 from behind the three-point line. That 58 percent three-point percentage was leaps and bounds above the 34 percent he made during the regular season, and he couldn't have found a better time to all of a sudden become a legitimate scoring threat.
Battier's defense has never been in question, and he continued to play an important role in this series by using his length both around the perimeter and in the paint.
It was that versatility on the defensive end of the floor that kept the Thunder off balance for much of the series.
Dwyane Wade didn't have the best series he's ever had as a shooter, but neither did he disappear.
His ability to remain a significant piece of the Miami Heat's offense after struggling during spots of the postseason was crucial to the club's title success.
More importantly, Wade remained a balanced player, adding six rebounds and over five assists per game to his stat line for the series. It wasn't quite the Wade we grew to know and love from his last championship, but it was a guy who still got the job done and allowed LeBron to do the rest.
Erik Spoelstra deserves a world of credit for the way he managed this series.
At the very least, he let LeBron James do his thing and didn't get in the way. In reality, though, he did far more than that.
After losing Game 1 he quickly made adjustments that helped the Heat get back in the series and rattle off four straight wins. He got James more involved with the perimeter defense and ensured that the ball kept moving—a vital component to this team's success.
Were it not for that ball movement, it's hard to imagine unlikely heroes like Shane Battier and Mike Miller rising to the occasion in such a timely fashion.
More importantly, Spoelstra kept his team composed after that Game 1. Indeed, he kept his team's head on straight throughout the postseason, often when things were looking to head south.
With Chris Bosh missing nine games in the playoffs and Dwyane Wade not playing his best ball, Spoelstra deserves as much credit as anyone for keeping this club afloat given the adversity.
Kevin Durant's performance in this series will never get the credit it deserves.
He was a model of efficiency, even by his own incredible standards. Durant made 55 percent of his field goals for the series, including 39 percent of his three-point attempts. And of course, his fourth quarter in OKC's Game 1 victory was one of the finest single-game performances of the entire postseason—arguably one of the best from any postseason.
Despite coming up short, Durant proved he belongs in the discussion of the league's greats, even at the highest level of competition. This was a breakout season that promises to be a sign of things to come.
Besides, it's not his fault he didn't get more touches.
After a postseason in which LeBron James bested some of his most historic playoff performances, he once again proved in these NBA Finals that he could do it a little bit of everything—or really a lot of everything.
Dropping Game 1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder might have derailed lesser stars, but LeBron bounced back in Game 2, proving his three MVP awards were anything but regular-season flukes. His 32 points in that game would have been the highlight of the series too—except he changed gears in Games 4 and 5, adopting the role of playmaker rather than scorer.
With the Thunder forcing a close Game 4 and threatening to tie the series in Miami, James added 12 assists and nine rebounds to his otherwise modest 26 points.
Love him or hate him, James was brilliant in a series that will undoubtedly play a central part in defining his career.