Thunder vs. Heat: Most Pivotal Plays of 2012 NBA Finals
Every series has pivotal plays and moments that stand out above the rest as game- and series-changers. The 2012 NBA Finals was no different.
The Oklahoma City Thunder took advantage of a huge fourth quarter in Game 1 to take an early lead in the series, but the Miami Heat would not be denied, sweeping the remaining four games to validate LeBron James' perch atop the NBA heap.
Some of the pivotal moments were bad plays by the Thunder and other good ones by the Heat. They were all important.
Read on to find out what they were.
Kendrick Perkins' Groin Injury
Technically this play didn't occur during the 2012 NBA Finals, but it does help explain why Kendrick Perkins was so ineffective during the final series of the playoffs.
Apparently, Perkins didn't just strain his hip on this play against the Dallas Mavericks but instead partially tore his groin, and the injury lingered throughout the remainder of the playoffs.
The series against the Miami Heat still wasn't the right matchup for him, but he could have slowed some of the attacks on the paint if he'd been fully healthy.
James Harden Does Something Good
James Harden had a pretty terrible series as a whole, scoring in single-figures three times in five games. But it wasn't all bad.
The bearded shooting guard had a great Game 2, but no shot was bigger than this buzzer-beater at the end of the first quarter of Game 1.
Despite losing control of the ball, Harden somehow managed to regain possession and fire up a prayer before the buzzer sounded. The shot went in as Harden hit the floor and helped the Oklahoma City Thunder cut the deficit they would eventually overcome to just seven points.
It wasn't until the third quarter that the comeback effort would truly start, but Harden's jumper gave the Thunder the fuel to hang around with the Heat during the second quarter.
Kevin Durant in the 4th Quarter of Game 1
It's impossible to pick just one play from Kevin Durant's fourth quarter of Game 1. He was just too good to isolate a single moment.
The Thunder entered the final period of action with a one-point lead and exited with an 11-point victory, thanks to the dominance of the high-scoring small forward.
Hitting shot after shot, Durant was simply on fire from all areas of the court. During his first Finals fourth quarter, he drained six of his nine attempts from the field and scored a ridiculous 17 points in the period.
Dwyane Wade Early Dunk in Game 2
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Dwyane Wade was absolutely awful during Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals, but 48 hours of constant criticism was enough to get him going in Game 2.
The shooting guard was in dire need of more aggression and that's exactly what he found early on in the Miami Heat's first Finals win of 2012. He finished with 10-of-20 shooting from 24 points and also added six rebounds and five assists.
While these two points clearly weren't the most crucial, they were the most pivotal because it made Wade realize just how beneficial his aggression was going to be in this series. It doesn't come any easier than when he split defenders and drove in for an uncontested dunk.
Was He Fouled?
The Oklahoma City Thunder were on the verge of completing a miracle comeback in Game 2 of the 2012 NBA Finals, trailing 98-96 with 12.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Kevin Durant took the inbounds pass on the left block and attempted to shoot a fadeaway over the outstretched arms of LeBron James. Their lower bodies made contact as the ball hit the rim and bounced awry, but no whistle was given.
LeBron pulled down the rebound and hit his free throws to ice the game, but we were left with a lot of controversy as everyone outside of Miami seemed to argue that Durant should have shot some free throws of his own.
It'll go down as just a missed shot, and a make-able one at that.
Two Shots, Six Free Throws
The Oklahoma City Thunder were up by nine points during the third quarter of Game 3 when they suddenly decided to start making stupid basketball plays.
On the first possession in question, Serge Ibaka closed out too late against a still-hot Shane Battier, fouling him as he missed the triple. Battier made all three free throws, and the Heat cut the deficit to six points.
The next time Miami had the ball, this time after a Thabo Sefolosha miss and a Dwyane Wade rebound, it was Derek Fisher's turn for a mental lapse. The lefty point guard fouled James Jones on a three-point attempt and the Heat role player made all three of his freebies.
Just like that, the deficit was down to three points and the Heat took the lead by the end of the quarter. They never looked back.
Westbrook Missed 3-Pointer
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Game 3 was close throughout the fourth quarter, but Russell Westbrook misfired on a golden opportunity to tie up the game and potentially send it to overtime.
Westbrook had scored 19 points already and after pulling down the defensive rebound on a LeBron James miss, he found himself wide open from just left of the top of the key. Without anyone within an arm's length, he jumped into the air and let fly.
As everyone held their breath, the ball rotated through the air and bounced off the back of the iron into the waiting arms of Shane Battier. Miami would get the ball to LeBron James and the Finals MVP made one of two free throws to make it a two-possession game.
LeBron Cramp Plays
With just under six minutes left and Game 4 tied at 90, LeBron James drove to his right and fell down with cramps, losing the ball in the process. The momentum seemed to swing firmly to the Oklahoma City Thunder at that point.
However, Derek Fisher dribbled the ball up the court and made a bad decision in a series that was full of them for him. Dwyane Wade swatted away his layup attempt and found a hobbled LeBron for two points and a re-momentum-swinging 92-90 lead.
LeBron was helped over to the sideline, where he would rest, stretch and rehydrate for a few minutes. With three minutes left, he came back in and hit a three-pointer as the shot-clock expired to give the Miami Heat a 97-94 lead that they would never relinquish.
Russell Westbrook Fouls Mario Chalmers
The Oklahoma City Thunder almost completed a dramatic comeback in Game 4 thanks to the unrelenting heroics of Russell Westbrook, but then the point guard made the boneheaded play of the series.
After Shane Battier fought to win a tipoff between James Jones and Udonis Haslem, the ball ended up in Mario Chalmers' hands with the Miami Heat holding possession and a three-point lead with 17 seconds remaining.
The shot clock was winding down and Chalmers would have to attempt an off-balance shot from downtown, which almost ensured the Thunder a chance at a defensive rebound and then a three-pointer to tie the game and send it to overtime.
However, Westbrook forgot the situation and fouled Chalmers, sending the Miami point guard to the line. Chalmers iced the game by knocking down both shots from the charity stripe.
It's impossible to pick out a pivotal moment from Game 5, because this game was rarely close and felt more like a coronation than a series-winning victory.
The Miami Heat, behind LeBron James' triple-double, jumped out to a five-point lead at the close of the first quarter and never looked back. Miami held a 17-point lead at one point in the second quarter and went into halftime with a double-digit advantage.
Then the third quarter continued to work in the Heat's favor, as they exploded to win the period by another 14 points. Even though the Thunder scored nine more points in the fourth quarter, they still couldn't keep the final margin to single figures.