With a 104-98 victory in Game 4 the Miami Heat won their third straight game in the 2012 NBA Finals and haven taken a commanding 3-1 series lead vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder. No team in NBA history has ever came back to win the NBA Finals after being down 3-1 (0-30), therefore the Thunder’s chances are dim at best. To view an analysis of Game 4 click here.
If Oklahoma wants to send this series back home then they need to stop double-teaming LeBron James every time he touches the ball, because he is too good of a passer and always seem to find an open teammate for a three pointer. With the way the Miami has been shooting from distance in these playoffs the Thunder cannot afford to give wide-open looks (especially to Battier!) because of defensive breakdowns. Late in Game 4, while James was on the bench with leg-crampings, the Heat ran the same pick-and-roll with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade three straight positions and the Thunder got burnt each time. Serge Ibaka (Bosh’s defender) was too worried about Wade getting around him off the pick, so he over helped which gave Bosh a wide-open lane to the basket.
If LeBron James is healthy for Game 5 (all reports say he will be), and he continues to not settle for jump shots, the Thunder and the rest of the world will have no answer for him. The only time that LeBron was ineffective on offense in the previous game was in the fourth quarter when the lengthy Kevin Durant was guarding him. It should be noted, however, that this was right before he had to be pulled from the game so it is up to interpretation if Durant really had an effect on him. Oklahoma cannot be worried about foul trouble like they were in Game 4. They have to put their best player, Durant, on the world’s best player, James. If they do this and still lose then at least they will know that their best was simply not good enough.
The likelihood of Russell Westbrook having another 40 point game is not very good, but don’t expect his production to dip too much because he will stay aggressive (like always), maybe he will even get more than three free throws this game, after all the talk of the foul disparity between the two teams. For anyone to blame Westbrook for the Thunder being down 3-1 should be banned from talking about basketball for life because he is the only on his team that constantly attacks. Even Durant can go through a series of positions where he seems “out of it.” Then we have Mr. Sixth Man of the Year, James Harden. Someone should tell Harden just because he is playing in Mia does mean he has to go M.I.A. on the biggest basketball stage in the world. Harden cost his team the win last game, after missing one wide-open shot after another, Scott Brooks would have been better off he would have benched him down the stretch. You would think that a player of Harden’s caliber could bounce back for a horrific performance but at this point his team cannot count him to be their when they need him.
The production of roll-players has been the difference in these NBA Finals. The Thunder, who everyone thought was the deeper team at the beginning of the series, have gotten next to nothing from their bench besides from an occasional play from forward Nick Collision. The Heat on the other hand have gotten great play from their bench, even rookie point guard Norris Cole hit two big threes that jumpstarted the Heat’s huge 17-0 run in the second quarter. The most eye-popping stat of Game 4 was Mario Chalmers scoring 25 points, 12 of which came in the final quarter. Oklahoma City cannot and will not win another game if they let roll-players continue to play at this level.
The Heat have made up their minds, if you double them they will find the open man and Oklahoma City needs to adjust to this or they will be going back home to clean out their lockers. The Thunder also need to tighten up their interior defense because too many times a Miami player jogged down the middle of the lane for an easy two points.
We predicted that the Thunder would win Game 4 but at this point we are going to bail on our prediction out the Thunder wining in 6 games (which is now impossible!) and say the Heat will close it out in Game 5 to give LeBron James his first NBA Championship with a final score of 95-83. James will never be able to silence all of the critics but if he and his team plays Game 5 like they have the rest of the 2012 Playoffs then he will be lifting the Larry O’Brian Trophy Thursday night. One of the main reasons that I have changed my pick (other than the fact no one has ever won after being down 3-1 in the Finals) is that the Thunder have not executed well down the stretch in each of the past three games and if it is another close game then the advantage has to go to Miami.
With all of that being said if these playoffs have taught us the fans anything, it is to expect the unexpected. Make sure you tune into Game 5 on ABC Thursday night, you might witness history.
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