Greetings everyone! Let's take a look at Game 4...
Heat 104, Thunder 98 -
Miami takes a 3-1 lead in the Finals after overcoming an early 17-point deficit and scoring 85 points in the final 3 quarters. Lebron James led the way with 26 points, 12 assists, and 9 rebounds for the Heat, and he did so with a "pass-first" type of game that dominated in a more "Magic" than "Michael" kind of way. He got a lot of help from Dwyane Wade (25 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks), but the biggest key for Miami was the play of Mario Chalmers. Just one game after OKC blatantly ignored him offensively (props to SI's Zach Lowe for pointing this out), Chalmers exploded for 25 points on 9-15 shooting including 4 threes in this one. 12 of those 25 came in the fourth quarter and Chalmers made big shot after big shot. Those of you that read me know that I am not a Chalmers supporter historically (really, ever) but he played particularly well last night.
On the OKC side, Russell Westbrook was absolutely outstanding. He did take 32 shots, which seems like a ghastly amount, but when you make 20 of 32 for 43 points, you're allowed to take 32 shots. He absolutely took over the game in the second half at one point, nearly single-handedly keeping the Thunder in it, and "good Russ" was on display. Unfortunately, instead of this being the definitive "Russell Westbrook Game!!", it will likely be slightly marred by a late decision of his to foul unnecessarily in the final seconds, giving Miami two free throws a decisive 5-point lead. Time and score has been an issue for the Thunder in back-to-back games (after Harden's similar foul decision in Game 3), but in this one, I would blame the coaching staff equally, if not moreso, than Westbrook. He clearly didn't know the rule, and while that's not an excuse, the OKC bench has to be yelling that instruction to the entire squad. At any rate, any talk of Westbrook's blunder has to be referenced with the fact that he dominated the game before that, and was the single biggest reason they were in that spot. Kevin Durant did add 28 points on 9-19 shooting for OKC, but didn't play particularly well and only added 2 rebounds on the night. His passive play will be discussed, but on a night where Westbrook had it going like he did, I didn't have a huge issue with Durant taking "only" 19 shots. Where the issue lies was Durant's lackluster performance on the glass, and a couple of big misses late. If Lebron had played the exact same game, the media would've killed him, and while that would've been unjustified, it does reveal the dichotomy. James Harden is the player in this series who has taken the biggest reputation hit. Harden had his second 2-for-10 shooting night of the series, was completely overmatched defensively, committed 5 fouls, and had 4 turnovers (to just 2 assists). I've always been a Harden fan, but there's no denying his poor play has really hurt OKC in a series where their role players haven't done much to help.
One more note, I have to applaud Erik Spoelstra after this one. His decision to use Norris Cole as a spark plug worked perfectly, as Cole gave him 8 points in 8 minutes and the Heat were +12 with him out there. I was quick to kill Spoelstra for playing Cole earlier in the series, so I have to bring praise here. On the flip side, Scott Brooks has repeatedly tied his wagon to Derek Fisher, and I don't get it. Alas. Here's an important thing to remember: This series is not over. Have we already forgotten that OKC ran off 4 straight against a San Antonio team that had won 20 straight games and was, for all intensive purposes, better than this Miami team? With the final 2 games in OKC, it would be advisable for Miami to close the Thunder out on Thursday. Beyond that? We have a series.