Thursday, June 21, 2012

NBA Finals Game 4: What Really Happened

Leave it to the sports media to completely muck up and over complicate what should be a straight forward event. Anymore, that seems to be what they do best.

Earlier in the day, I wrote approximately 1000 words on Game 4. I wrote about what went wrong for OKC, and how big a disaster this series has been. Believe me, what you are reading now does not even remotely resemble what I wrote earlier. It's not that I hate what I previously wrote (that's a lie...I do), it's that the content is completely irrelevant 24 hours after the game.

For one, I sincerely doubt you need to read an additional 200 words on how bad James Harden has been. Yes, he's been horrendous. Yes, it was shocking to see his end of game hesitation, when he essentially turned into the high school benchwarmer who only plays at the end of blowouts. You know this already! Why would you need me to tell you about it again? Same goes for Scotty Brooks being a giant dope, and Kendrick Perkins being something beyond useless. Those topics have been touched on a million times already thanks to ESPN's relentless coverage.

And that brings us back to the opening paragraph of this post. Way. Too. Much. Coverage. As a result, we've totally distorted what actually happened in Game 4. Every writer or analyst feels the need to come up with a fresh angle on things, even though it really isn't all that complicated. Just in the two short hours after I left work, I heard from a radio personality that Russell Westbrook's points were hollow because he lost the game for his team (ridiculous), and from a TV personality that Lebron's "cramp game" ranked right up there with Jordan's "flu game." Huh??? And those two statements might not have been the most egregious!

What happened last night was, in reality, pretty straight forward. It had nothing to do with legacies (can we please stop with the legacy talk, please?), destiny, or sheer force of will. Those are just dramatic sounding words the media throws around when they want/need to make their columns look more important.

It also had nothing to do with Lebron being more clutch than Russell Westbrook. Yes, Westbrook's gaffe at the end of the game was egregious, but let's not forget that he poured in 13 straight points to singlehandedly drag his team toward the finish line. Again, clutch is a very tricky subject that is often either made up or confused with luck.

So, if it's not those themes (the ones the media is jamming down our throats), then what is it? Why did Miami win the game?

1. Lebron gets it. Finally. What Lebron did in Game 4 was an absolute clinic on how to play to your strengths, and it was perhaps the first time we've ever seen him locked in and committed to playing that way for a full game. EVER! This wasn't a dominating performance in the sense that he was actually hitting the crappy jump shots he loves so much. Game 6 against the Celtics was that type of game. This was much, much more. This was what we've asked -- no, demanded -- of Lebron the last few years. This is the type of dominance that should make every other NBA team crap their collective pants. Bill Simmons talked about this in his column, saying that "There comes a moment when you say, "Oh, (crap), we're all in trouble now," and then you hold on for the ride." Simmons is right when he says Lebron has hit that moment, but he's wrong when he says it was Game 6 of the ECF. That moment happened two nights ago, in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

On that night, Lebron James parked himself on the low block for 44 minutes. From that block, he controlled the game like very few in history have been capable of doing. In man-on-man situations, he obliterated his defender. When the double team came, he sliced apart the defense with surgical precision. Every time down the floor, I felt certain Miami would score. It was completely breathtaking. Even I, an avowed Miami Heat hater, could only watch in silent respect as Lebron suddenly morphed into the player we all expected him to be. It wasn't about playing through cramps, or hitting a big three at the end, or any other nebulous thing such as fate, destiny, or legacy ; it was about Lebron James taking complete and total advantage of his significant physical gifts. Not complicated at all.

But even that doesn't truly tell us why Miami won the game...

2. Mario Chalmers - 25 points, Norris Cole - 8 points


OKC - two players in double digits, Miami - four players in double digits

There you have it! That's literally all there is to Game 4!

This phrase has been said many times, but it clearly hasn't sunk in with the sports media. "It's a make or miss league." In Game 4, Miami's role players made shots. Mario Chalmers made shots and provided 25 points that OKC simply couldn't account for. Norris Cole made a few shots that you would never, EVER expect him to make. On a whole, Miami made 10 three pointers. Meanwhile, OKC made just 3 three pointers, and got 13 points combined from their other three starters.

What else is there to say? Given the huge advantage Miami's supporting cast has provided over the last four games, it's not wonder they've wrested control of the series. In a "make or miss league," Miami has made shots and OKC hasn't.

Now, thanks to their misses (and the fact that they wasted one of the most efficient games in Finals history), the Thunder have to literally make history to win the series. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit, and doing the undoable is going to be especially hard with a focused and apparently smart Lebron James squaring off against them.

Is the series over? I'm not sure. The odds certainly say so, but it would be foolish to write off a team that just defeated the Spurs in four straight games. Of course, that hasn't stopped the media from putting a crown on Lebron's head already. Par for the course for them.

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