LeBron James has been on a mission since Game 6 of the Boston Celtics series. It’s not as if he had not played good basketball before then. However, the display of majestic athleticism and efficiency he has put on since that critical, and pivotal, win against the Celtics was something no one could have predicted.
Magic Johnson said it best during the postgame show.
LeBron will not let his team lose.
As opposed to the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks in which James was virtually transparent, the Heat had only two stars in the fourth quarter. Thus, jokes about LeBron’s lack of a clutch gene were fueled incomparably.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is the same Miami Heat from the preceding year—or the same LeBron.
The Miami Heat find themselves excelling at something that last season, they had become far too accustomed to wavering.
They are winning close games in championship fashion.
In the fourth quarter of the game to resist plenty of Oklahoma City runs, LeBron James scored eight points, Dwyane Wade scored five, two from Chris Bosh and a few other key baskets from players like Mario Chalmers, James Jones and Udonis Haslem.
It was a critique of the franchise that kept fans from adulating the collection of superstars rather than condemning them like a scuffed pair of sneakers. It was as fair a revelation, however, as the Miami Heat would face last season and now seem to be readjusting the public perception of “clutch” in the 2012 NBA Finals.
Game 4 will be all about adjustments for both the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The 2012 NBA Finals was supposed to be a high-scoring series between two aligning starships known for winning games with flash and glamour, though from two exceptionally separate markets. Miami and Oklahoma City could not represent more different aspects of the league, yet they have collided on the biggest stage in an epic battle that looks nothing like expected.
It’s become a game of patience and fundamentals, something straight out of San Antonio. The Oklahoma City Thunder will need more concentration, not more effort and adrenaline, to figure a way around the Heat. Miami may have more experience, but to rival their virtuosity, the Thunder need to keep their cash cow out of foul trouble and in beast mode.
Kevin Durant with five fouls on the game and LeBron James finishing with only one is not a recipe for success in the Thunder’s favor. It’s one for a quick series exit courtesy of South Beach.
Durant is a solid defender, but a defensive player he is not. Guarding LeBron is the toughest assignment for any team in the league and even more when the player on LBJ duty is not as mature defensively as he should be.
Durant’s length may have troubled Kobe Bryant in the second-round series, but Coach Brooks needs to realize that James is a different monster.
How can Durant be the fourth quarter savior if he’s shrinking away from drives in fear of fouling out before he can score a bucket?
The Heat will come out strong in Game 4 because they have the momentum, which is a crucial avenue of the NBA Playoffs as we saw for Miami in both the Indiana and Boston series.
Still, they appeared beatable in Game 3. Look for coach Erik Spoelstra to exploit the Durant-James matchup even more in order to keep Durant in either foul trouble or out of the way for a full head of steam LeBron. Also watch for Bosh to continue to attack the rim.
Normally, throughout the regular season and even throughout the postseason, the Heat have primarily used Wade and James to attack the post, but he was incredibly effective doing it in Game 3.
If Miami realizes another avenue of attack, why wouldn’t they continue to punch Oklahoma City in the mouth with it?
Miami’s strength against the Oklahoma City Thunder is their defense and continuing to limit Durant’s productivity is going to keep the Heat coasting through the series. However, it’s fool’s gold to believe that the Heat can hold Durant under their spell for much longer.
Expect Game 4 to be a higher scoring game as it has become a Game 7 scenario for Oklahoma City. Either win in Miami to tie the series or fall into a 3-1 hole and be forced to dig up three victories.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are on an amazing conquest as an amazing young team. Still, searching for their identity will prove fatal against a Miami squad led by a man firmly planted in his own.
Miami Heat 102, Oklahoma City Thunder 100