Tag: NBA finals 2012
LeBron James and the Heat were in this same exact position just one year ago. They were up 2-1 in the NBA Finals last year playing against the Dallas Mavericks and they never won a game again. It would be easy to look back at that series and figure out what went wrong: LeBron James was once again failing to shine under the brightest lights, and his performance during the Playoffs was simply terrible. Not this time around. LeBron James has put up three of his best performances in the Finals we have ever seen against the Oklahoma City Thunder. And he really delivered when the series finally shifted to South Beach. On game three against the Thunder, LeBron James finished the game with 29 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 assists. And despite a brilliant comeback in the third quarter from the Thunder, who managed to turn things around and even built a 10 point lead, James put up a three-pointer in the final seconds of the third to take the lead and never let go.
Kevin Durant had 25 points for the Thunder while Russell Westbrook finished the night with 19 points and 5 rebounds in 8 of 18 shooting. Kevin Durant once again got caught in foul trouble and things got a little complicated. He picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter and had to go to the bench, but perhaps the biggest surprise came just few seconds later when the Thunder head coach Scott Brooks decided to sit Westrbook as well to give him a little break at the end of the third quarter. Suddenly, the Heat took a second wind and turn things around to take a three-point lead at the end of the third quarter. From there on, the Heat never fell back again and finished the night with a 91-85 win at home.
The Miami fans were excited with James overall performance. It’s not just that he is delivering offensively, he is also working hard on his defensive play. James was responsible for cutting down a bit on Kevin Durant’s performance for the Thunder. He was a bit proud of his performance on Sunday night. “Just trying to make plays,” James said in the postgame press conference. “I told you guys, last year I didn’t make enough game-changing plays, and that’s what I kind of pride myself on. I didn’t do that last year in the Finals. I’m just trying to make game-changing plays, and whatever it takes for our team to win, just trying to step up in key moments and be there for my teammates.”
In this same circumstances, when both team in the NBA Finals are tied with one game a piece, whatever team goes on to win the third game, ends up winning the championship 85% of the time. Sure enough, there is still plenty to be said and done in this series and the outcome has not yet been decided by any means, but things are looking a bit uphill right now for the Thunder. Still, there is plenty of talent on this young and hungry team. “It was frustrating,” Durant said. “Of course we had a good lead and they came back and made some shots. We fouled shooters on the 3-point line twice. It’s a tough break for us, man. You know, I hate sitting on the bench, especially with fouls.” Well, it’s going to be up to Durant to take some pride and guide the Thunder into a vital win in game 4.
The Oklahoma City Thunder just got a good idea of what sort of team they are really facing in their first trip to the NBA Finals. So did pretty much everybody else, because let’s face it, this was the first time during the 2012 NBA Playoffs that we got a chance to see the Miami Heat’s Big Three play a game like they are meant to. And suddenly that Oklahoma City Thunder looked vulnerable, and even thought they once again got back in the fight in the final quarter, they gave such a big advantage early on the game that it was just a little too much to ask from the home team to close that gap in the last 12 minutes of the game. One thing is for certain, now that the series is moving back to Miami, the Oklahoma City Thunder need to find a way to be offensively aggressive since the start. Because there is no way the Thunder are coming behind a 17-point deficit to win in South Beach.
Now, back to last night’s game. LeBron James guided the Miami Heat with his best Playoffs performance best, his second personal record breaking match of the series, finishing off the night with 32 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and closing with 10-for-10 shooting from the free throw line, what once was considered the weakest spot in his game. But LeBron James had seen how his brilliant start on his previous game ended in a loss, so this time, he got some serious help coming from his co-stars. Chris Bosh came in to the rescue chipping in 16 points and 15 rebounds, while Dwayne Wade improved his game and gave the Heat 24 points and 6 rebounds.
But perhaps it all comes down to LeBron James been able to hold off Kevin Durant in the last seconds of the game, as the Thunder were coming down with a furious fourth quarter that got them within two-points of the Heat. Sure enough it was a bit of a controversial play. Many considered a foul should had been called against James in that decisive play. Still, the referees let the illegal contact pass and the Heat took a 100-96 win in Oklahoma City. For a moment there, it seemed as if the Miami Heat would once again get in trouble in the fourth quarter. Let’s not forget that last time they blew a 13-point lead in Game 1 and seemed headed toward a repeat of the second game of the Finals last year, when the Heat blew a 15-point edge on its home floor against the Dallas Mavericks.
“We had played too well in the first 36 minutes to try to let this one slip away from us,” LeBron James said in the postgame press conference. “We just wanted to make one more, two more plays than they made and come out with a victory and we were able to do that.” Still, the big elephant in the room is that last play of the match. Kevin Durant had a solid performance. He finished up with 32 points for the Thunder but missed a short jumper with 9.9 seconds left after appearing to be bumped by James. It’s just one play, sure. And to be fair, the Heat had leaded the whole way up to this point, but that basket would had tied the game after Derek Fisher deflected the ball off Wade’s hands. It’s uncertain how this will play out in game three. One thing is clear: the Thunder now knows what the Heat can do. Let’s see what Oklahoma put in the table for Sunday’s game.