The Miami Heat moved to within one game of the NBA Championship with a six point win over Oklahoma City, who just can't get a complete team effort.
Heat 104 - Thunder 98
Russell Westbrook stepped up in a huge way, but a late mistake and the near total absence of James Harden cost the Thunder a chance to steal one in Miami. Westbrook put together a Finals game for the ages, scoring 43 points on 20-32 shooting, grabbing 7 boards and dishing out 5 assists. Kevin Durant chipped in 28, but only managed two rebounds in his 46 minutes. To put that in perspective, Miami's Norris Cole had two rebounds in 8 minutes, and he's only 6'1".
LeBron James once again led the Heat with 26 points, 9 rebounds and 12 assists. Dwayne Wade had 25 and Mario Chalmers stepped up big time with 25 points, and most of them seemed to come when Miami needed them most.
The most baffling part for me so far is Harden's lack of offensive contribution. He has been a mess the last two games. Harden went 2-10 last night, and has hit only 13 of his 37 shots in the four games. Harden has also been awful from the three point line, going 4 for 14 in the series. He's just not living up to his Sixth Man of the Year status.
Westbrook's foul after the jump ball late in the fourth quarter is getting a lot of attention, but the blame doesn't stop with him. The shot clock resetting to 5 seconds on the jump ball is a rarely used rule, so he probably didn't know it. Still, everyone on the floor and the OKC coaches should have been looking up at the shot clock and be aware of the situation. It's easy to make Westbrook the scapegoat there, but without him the game isn't even close.
The Thunder aren't dead yet. The most important thing for them is stay mentally focused, but watching the postgame press conferences showed that they were pretty discouraged. They need to regroup today and tomorrow and remember that they can play with Miami. If OKC can get the series back home, they have a legit shot to pull off a miracle with three straight wins.
But if you think LeBron and company have looked focused the last two games, I would imagine they are going to come out with an intensity level we've yet to see in the next game. The last thing Miami wants to do is go back to OKC with the young Thunder team having a glimmer of hope.
Game five is tomorrow night in Miami.