The Miami Heat have become one of the most dangerously unpredictable teams in the NBA and the franchise is eating up every minute of it. Why wouldn’t they?
After Game 4, the Heat have achieved gritty wins from 40-point games from two of the most athletically gifted point guards in the league. Winning ugly is not how it was supposed to be, but it was how everyone wanted it to be.
Games in this series are being won with key plays down the stretch, in the fourth quarter, and stifling defense from either side. Both are flashy transition teams, but the formula in Game 4 became more obvious than it ever had been.
Being in the right place at the right time.
Kevin Durant had a particularly efficient night, but he only scored six points in the fourth quarter. The Thunder depend on him, not Westbrook, to be their saving grace and when he isn’t, no matter how ridiculously extravagant Westbrook is, they are not the same closing squad they were against the Lakers and the Mavericks.
LeBron James may have started off cold early. Champions finish hot.
James finished hot.
Now, it’s time for Game 5’s coronation of a King that had been dethroned prematurely. A lot of people had given up on the man who had made two trips to the Finals only to be swept in one and to disappear in another. James has not disappeared in this year’s playoffs and it seems that he is wholeheartedly prepared to sit at the top of the league where he belongs, at least for the next year.
The Thunder came out strong against the Heat but when it came to taking over in the fourth, fans saw a relaxed Kevin Durant who became less and less involved as Westbrook took the reins. This series may be over, but it’s not too late for Durant to prove his aggression and stamina in a pressure cooker-type situation.
Taking Durant off of LeBron kept him out of foul trouble, but it took away a spark. Durant did not play with the same fire that we have seen in the first three games of the series. With Westbrook’s do or die mentality crowding the lanes, it’s easy to see how a soft-spoken Durant could fade into black.
Game 5 is not a place for the meek or weak-hearted. Durant knows this and we may see a shift in personality from the superstar trying to keep him franchise from elimination. Everyone expects KD to demand the ball more because he deserves the rock every time he is in position to score. The Thunder need him to and he knows what he needs to do to win.
He just has not done it.
The Miami Heat will continue to attack on all cylinders. At home is where their role players excel and by the looks of Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier, this line of thinking is not far-fetched. Chalmers’ confidence in his game is what keeps him in contention for blowout performances in big moments and he proved that in Game 4.
Chalmers is not slinking away, comfortable with a single sighting in the 2012 NBA Finals. He wants it all. The little brother of the Big 3 is stepping up to the plate and no one is going to ask him to step down.
Oklahoma City will come out trying to outscore the Miami Heat which will work for a substantial amount of the game, but when Miami’s defense trumps all, the Thunder will fall short again. Don’t be mistaken, Game 5 is a close out game and will end the series.
However, it would still be admirable to see Kevin Durant’s last hurrah in the NBA Finals, his last chance to give it everything he’s got.
Yet, it’s also LeBron’s.
James has been here before. Not 3-1, but he is no stranger to the Finals. James is tired of losing, tired of being doubted.
The Thunder will do everything in their will to escape elimination.
The Miami Heat will do everything necessary to force it.
Key Matchup: Russell Westbrook vs. Dwyane Wade
It’s apparent what both LeBron and Durant will bring to the table in Game 5, but wild cards from each franchise have been Westbrook and Wade.
Only in an alternate universe would it have ever been possible for Wade’s production to be questionable – in the past. Nowadays, fans just don’t know what to expect from the one-time NBA champion.
What Westbrook was able to achieve in Game 4, offensively, was off the charts and if duplicated in Game 5 could be a true problem for the Miami Heat. If Wade can offset Westbrook as well as be influential offensively himself, the Heat are in good shape to win it all when the clock winds down in Game 5.
Game 5 Prediction: Miami Heat