Friday, June 22, 2012

Crown the Champs

Greetings everyone! Let's go...

The Miami Heat are the NBA champions after a 121-106 victory in Game 5 last night. Lebron James notched a triple-double with 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists before being named the MVP, and if possible, I thought he played even better than his numbers. That said, the absolute X-factor in Game 5 was the fact that Mike Miller hit seven three-pointers. Seven! To put it in perspective, Miller averaged 6 points a game in the regular season, 5 points a game in the playoffs, and hadn't made a three in the entirety of the finals before last night. Miami had it all going on this night, and Miller was a microcosm of that.

On the OKC side, Kevin Durant and James Harden both had average-or-slightly-better games for them as Durant had 32 points and 11 rebounds (on 13 of 24) and Harden added 19 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds on 5 of 11 shooting. That is the entire list of guys who played even reasonably well for the Thunder last night. One game after maybe the best game of his career, Russell Westbrook shot 4-for-20 from the field, and while he did get to the line 13 times, it was an ugly 19 points. The rest of the supporting cast for OKC was woeful as Ibaka, Perkins, and Thabo combined for just 11 points on 4-15 shooting, and Derek Fisher was the lone "bright spot" with 11 points and 3 triples. I can't get beyond the curious decisions by Brooks in this series. Thabo played only 9 minutes last night despite being the best perimeter defender on the roster, and Brooks refused to up Nick Collison's minutes despite him being the best big on that team throughout the series. It would've been extremely tough to beat a Miami team that shot 52% and made 14 threes, so I won't come down on Brooks too hard, but series-wide, there were some issues.

Here's something we need to remember in the midst of the Lebron-mania. As fantastic as he was throughout the entire playoffs and especially the finals, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are pretty good at basketball. It's almost hilarious how little discussion the two of them have received since last night, and while the Lebron love (finally) is justified, Wade had an efficient 20 points (on 12 shots) and rebounds last night, and Bosh was really, really good with 24 and 7. The value of Bosh has been lost a bit, but the difference between the Heat with him and without him is glaring, and while Wade drove me crazy throughout the playoffs, it's hard to kill a guy who averaged 23/5/4 with over a steal and a block per game for the entire postseason.

Where do we go from here for the Thunder? In the midst of the Heat love, there's been a turn on OKC a bit. I'll stress this to you. Most teams have to lose a finals before they win one, and no team has ever won the title with their best 4 players at age 23 or under. Let's take a breather, and realize that they'll be back here. The Durant/Lebron "argument" for best player alive was never a real one, and the educated knew that, but let's not forget that Durant averaged 29 a game in the playoffs and nearly 31 a game in the finals while shooting 55% from the field, 39% from three, and 84% from the line. He's one of, if not the, best offensive players on Earth and he's 23 years old. As far as Westbrook is concerned, I've been critical of him in the past, but Tuesday night reminded everyone how electric he is, and with some tweaking, he'll remain a top-10 to 12 player in the game. The real casualty of this series was probably James Harden's stock, and while we all love him, there's a ceiling there and it falls below the "is he max a guy!??!" corollary.

I'm actually glad to see Lebron James win the championship. I was not-so-discretely rooting for him in these playoffs, not because I am a huge LBJ fan, but because I had grown sick and tired of the unjustified bashing of the best player on the planet. "The Decision" and the welcome party to Miami were terribly calculated maneuvers and no one would dispute that, but after 2 full seasons, let's just take it all in and remember that we just saw absolute greatness on display. The best players in the world were on display in the playoffs, and especially these finals, and we were all witnesses.

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