Posts Tagged ‘heat’

Westbrook scores 43 but Miami go 3-1 up.

   Russell Westbrook put in a monster performance finishing with 43 points. Just like Rajon Rondo’s perfomance, it was not enough. Heat go up 3-1.

Russell Westbrook - 2012 NBA Finals - Game ThreeRussell Westbrook’s performance was very similar to that of Rajon Rondo’s during the Eastern Conference Finals, however, the result was the same. Miami finish with the win and go 3-1 up in the finals. This was the closest and most fast paced game of the finals so far. If you don’t enjoy watching basketball after that game, you should be watching Golf. There are, yet again, far too many talking points to cover, therefore this post will cover some of the key aspects that I thought decided the game.

 Russell Westbrook
As soon as Westbrook shot his first jumper of the game, I along with most Oklahoma fans screamed “no!” at the television. He has dribbled the ball up the court and shot within a few seconds without passing. This is exactly the type of play that did not fall for him in recent games and what drew plenty of criticism from viewers everywhere. The shot was good. As were his next 3. He in fact had 10 1st quarter points and was the main reason why Oklahoma had their first 1st quarter lead all series. Westbrook ended on 20-32 shooting, an incredible way to answer the critics. Unfortunately, Oklahoma could not defend Lebron James and James Harden had a terrible game.  Make no mistake, without Westbrook putting in the performance he did, Game 4 would have been over by half time. It is just a huge shame that Westbrook did not realise the shot clock was only at 5 seconds during the final play. His intentional foul on Chalmers was due to the fact that he thought there were 24 seconds on the shot clock.

Lebron JamesLeBron James - 2012 NBA Finals - Game Four
James finished with 26 points and 12 assists. He abused the post all night long   making Harden and Sefolosha look foolish more often than not. As a counter, Oklahoma had no option but to double team him. With Battier, Chalmers, Cole and  Jones all on the floor at times for the Heat, their 3’s began raining down, mostly in the  2nd quarter. Miami had 18 points from the arc alone in the 2nd quarter. This quickly  obliterated Oklahoma’s early lead and gave them a lot to think about through halftime.  Mainly, “How the hell to we guard Lebron?” Lebron then was screaming on the  sideline due to an intense cramp in the 4th quarter and missed the last minute of the  game. This was after he hobbled on to drain a 3 and put Miami up by 4. If Skip Bayless  tries to argue that he wasn’t clutch, ignore him. That said, Lebron seemed to be trying  to act like Jordan when he played with the flu.

James Harden

Harden finished with 8 points and 2 assists. He also seemed very scared of Miami. He missed 3 wide open 3’s and went 1-5 from downtown. He also shot a shocking 2-10 from the field, including one wide open from the elbow towards the end of the 4th. He had 3/4 seconds of being wide open and hesitated far too long before finally throwing up the brick. His dreadful performance was epitomised by the wide open layup he missed in the 4th. This would have given the Thunder their first lead in 22 minutes and could have changed the entire game. I was perplexed as to why Harden was man marking James late on. Harden does not have the physical capability to defend a player like James. Harden is yet to play to his potential. If Oklahoma are to steal a win in Game 5, Harden will need to achieve his regular season averages.
James Harden - 2012 NBA Finals - Game Three

The Officials
     After a lifetime of watching nothing but football (soccer for you Americans), I grow tired of complaining about referees. However, the Miami Heat seem to get every 50-50 call go their way, including some blatant bad calls. To name a few from Game 4:

  • The double-dribble missed on Lebron James in 2nd that led to a James layup.
  • Loose-ball foul not called on Derek Fisher off a rebound in the 4th. The ball fell to Chalmers who buried a 3.
  • Many fouls (seemingly) not called on Westbrook or Durant throughout the game.

I honestly hate to use the officials as a way of complaining but even my twitter feed was filling up with people that were bemused with some of the calls. What is your take on it? Am I wrong? Are Miami getting an unfair advantage from the officials?

Mario Chalmers

Chalmers has been due a good game. Wade spoke highly of him during his post game interview (why wouldn’t he?) after he played a huge role in the Game 4 win. He ended with 25 points off an efficient 9-15 night of shooting. He made a tough layup in traffic the possession after Lebron was carried off due to cramp and then sank a couple of clutch free throws a few possessions later, maintaining the lead Miami had. Chalmers was the deciding factor. The unpredictable deciding factor. Game 1 had the support players of OKC step up. Game 2 had shane Battier. Game 3 had Oklahoma’s rare low free throw percentage. Game 4 had Mario Chalmers go off for 25 points.

Did any of you predict any of these things? This series is impossible to call, still. Ibaka could go 11-11 from the field in Game 5, it’s been that kind of series. The unpredictable nature is making it one of the best series I have ever watched. Either team could have won by a sweep already. It’s times like this that you wish it was a best of 13.


Oklahoma City come up short with free throws.

It was a night where defence was the real winner. Both Miami and OKC upped their defence in Game 3 that saw Miami come through victorious. Miami now lead 2-1 in this series involving two of the most well matched teams the league has seen for a while. Make no mistake, every game so far between these two giants has been decided by 1, maybe 2 possessions. So when Oklahoma shot 62% of their free throws, it’s stunning that they only lost by 6 points considering Miami hit almost 90% of their free throws. This, ultimately was where Game 3 was won and lost.

Kendrick Perkins Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat gets set to attempt a technical free throw attempt in the first half against Kendrick Perkins #5 and James Harden #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Three of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 17, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

    Miami started strong again. The 1st quarter was filled with points in the paint for Miami. they made 10 of 11 shots in the paint and missed 10 of 11 jumpshots. 20 of their 26 first quarter points came from inside. The play by play read, “James layup, James layup, Wade layup, James layup”. I was initially very worried things would crumble for Oklahoma again. However, Oklahoma made many of the shots they missed….check that….they made many of the make-able shots they missed in Game 2. So at the end of the 1st the score was 26-20 Miami.
OKC then sharpened up defensively. Switching between a zone and man-to-man defence, Miami began to struggle getting into the paint more as they started to take more jumpshots. Sefolosha had a wonderful highlight play by stealing the ball of Lebron and sprinting up the other end for an alley-oop. Sefolosha was fantastic again all night defensively. The steal on Wade in the final minute gave OKC a huge chance to win the game.
Derek Fisher also added a lot to the game. He made a three with 5.19 on the clock in the second period. This was the same 3 that he missed in Game 2, the same three that, had he made, Oklahoma would have won Game 2. Not only that but he did something he never accomplished at LA. He played very, very well defensively. Playing full court on Chalmers was genius. It meant that by the time Chalmers had found Lebron or Wade, there were only 10/11 seconds left on the clock. This led to numerous shot clock violations and turnovers for Miami.

   We’ve already covered the free throws as why Oklahoma lost, but there was one other deciding factor.
Kevin Durant’s foul trouble. He lost 8 minutes of playing time in the 3rd quarter after OKC were up 60-53 when he took a seat on the bench. The Heat then went on a 16-7 run and led at the end of the third 69-67.
My opinion? His 4th foul was complete bs. I refuse to believe that it was a foul considering it was near identical to the foul that was not called on Lebron at the end of Game 2, as Durant put up the game tying shot. What is extremely endearing is Durant’s reaction to both the Lebron foul at the end of Game 2 and his foul trouble in Game 3, “I just try to play aggressive on both ends of the floor”, “I just missed the shot”. He makes no comment on the officials decisions, something incredibly rare in sport today.
In contrast, what does Lebron do after he missed a 50 foot buzzer beater in Game 3 at the end of the 2nd? Immediately complains to the ref after no foul is called…

Yes, Miami were the better team again but only thanks to some moo points (
Durant has been in foul trouble before but he wont be every game. Oklahoma will not shoot 62% from the free throw line again. Harden will not finish in single digits again. Both of these teams are so evenly matched that it takes something out of the ordinary to win games. Game 1 was decided by Nick Collison’s offensive rebounding. Game 2 by Battier’s shooting, and Game 3 by rare free throw misses. Both Miami and Oklahoma are so well matched that this Championship will not be won by skill, because that is a given. It will be won by unforced errors and who doesn’t drink their Gatorade.

Some final points for you to mull over and respond to;

  • Did you notice all the empty seats at the beginning of second half? I guess mohitos take a while to make!
  • The technical foul called on Scott Brooks in the 2nd was bs. The ball was deflected out off Haslem but was called Miami ball. Brooks got frustrated and started arguing it should be OKC ball…just as all the OKC players did. The call was immediately reversed and it was an Oklahoma inbound. Yet, the technical foul was given.
    This is the NBA Finals. We all know that every possession counts. So are you really going to call a technical for a coach being passionate on a call that he was right on?! At least Wade missed the free throw.

Who will win the 2012 NBA Finals?

Miami win Game 2, just.

     An article written after the game was titled, “Miami tie the series, barely”. I wrote in my previous two blogs about how Miami would have to be almost perfect in order the beat Oklahoma. They had to play to their fullest potential. This is exactly what happened and it was only just good enough against a less-than good Oklahoma side. Erik Spoelstra said in his pre-game speech “every play matters, the game will come down to 5 plays.” He was right. If Fisher would have made that wide open 3, if Westbrook drained any of the missed jumpers he put up in the 1st, if OKC missed two less free throws…
It’s very easy to look at each individual play, especially when games often finish with a points difference of under 7 or 8 points. However, this is a 48 minute sport, and for 36 of those, Miami were much better. We know that OKC like to stay within striking distance before taking over in the 4th, they were just too late in reaching their “striking distance”.
Miami went up 18-2.
They were much more fired up than Oklahoma. Everything that needed to happen for the Heat to win, happened.
Lebron had another fantastic shooting night, finishing on 32 and making 4 clutch points at the end of the game. Wade stepped up 24 points and Bosh finished with 16. 72 points all together, 5 more than their regular season average of 67. This was not where they won the game as Durant, Westbrook and Harden finished collectively with 80. The big three will consistently cancel each other out. Harden stepped up in game 2 just as Wade and Bosh did. No, Miami did not win because of the shooting from their big three, they won because of two more important reasons:

1) Shane Battier’s 17 points. 
Battier has suddenly become the best 3 point shooter in all the land. He is 10-13 from 3 pointers in the Finals so far with no signs of letting up. It makes me worry about the IQ of some basketball players. To consistently leave Battier open from 3, do they even learn? Battier stepped up as the “supporting player” in Game 2 like Collison and Sefolosha did in Game 1 for Oklahoma. His 17 points were the difference. Although you have to think, will he keep shooting about 75% from 3’s for the rest of the finals? Probably not. Which means Chalmers or Haslem have to step up and score more than 3 or 2 points respectively as they did in Game 2.

2) OKC’s fast-break points – 7
They had 24 fast-break points in Game 1 as they found it very easy to abuse the defensive slack of Wade and Chalmers. The 7 fast-break points they had in Game 2 was not only far less than the 24 in Game 1, but they all came in the 4th quarter. They caused 5 turnovers, had 8 more shots and out-rebounded Miami….only in the 4th quarter.

Durant said it perfectly in his post game interview, “we can’t get too down [about the missed shots in the 1st] instead stay positive and understand what can be changed for Game 3.”

That is exactly what they must do. Understand what needs to be changed, because there isn’t much. Miami had to break their backs to get the Game 2 win and they were playing against an OKC side that didn’t show up for the whole of the first 12 minutes.

Let’s not forget the game-tying shot Durant had where he was clearly fouled by Lebron.

That said, Miami did deserve to win Game 2 but it took them far more effort than I thought it would.

My friend told me he thinks OKC will find it difficult to beat Miami at their home arena since they are so efficient at home. However, if Miami can beat OKC in Oklahoma, then OKC can certainly beat Miami in South Beach, especially with their 21-12 record on the road.

Miami flops in Game 1.

Were Miami terrible? Or were Oklahoma brilliant?
       To be honest, Miami were pretty terrible. One shocking statistic- Durant and Westbrook ended on 63 points, 16 rebounds and 15 assists. Lebron, Wade and Bosh ended on 59 points, 18 rebounds and 12 assists.
       Miami were the better team for the first half, thanks mainly to the 3 point shooting of Battier and offensive aggression of Chalmers who had 13 and 10 respectively at the half. That said, how often will Miami shoot 60% from 3 point land? Oklahoma were still shooting a better field-goal percentage (<8%) by halftime, they weren’t worried. This is what Oklahoma seem to have done consistently against the best teams all year. Stay within striking distance before erupting and taking over. 
     I spoke in my preview of this series how the game would be won by the supporting cast, not the big 3 of either team. Chalmers and Battier were giving Miami the lead at the half. Then Sefolosha and Collinson took over the supporting roles. Sefolosha had Lebron in his back pocket all of the 4th quarter. There is a reason why Lebron only had 2 points in the first 8.13 minutes of the 4th. Collinson had one massive offensive rebound, tipping it out to Durant who hit a three. Not to mention Collison’s 10 rebounds and 8 timely points. 
     We can’t ignore the impact that Westbrook and Durant had. Wade is terrible at transitional defence, so when Westbrook starts moving through the gears and has the ability to pull up for a two or drive straight into the bucket, OKC usually wind up with a +2 on their scorecard. I remember Lebron in an iso move during the 4th, it took about 15 seconds and he ended up hitting a 3 point play from the free throw line. He seemed pretty pumped after this. Durant than casually brought the ball up on the next play before pulling up almost immediately, and sinking a 3 pointer. 
    Durant and Westbrook had 41 points in the second half alone. The whole Miami Heat team at 40. Lebron still scored 30 points but Wade forced too many low percentage shots and ended on 19. So we can assume Wade and Lebron will finish with 30 each a night? Ok, so what about Harden?
     He can finish with 20+ points if he wants and yet only had a 5 point game. If Wade or Bosh increase their points, OKC still have Harden who can hep out. It seems insane that Westbrook and Durant beat Miami almost single handedly. They just needed a little help on defence from Sefolosha, something he can do better than any NBA player, and a few rebounds from a 7 footer (Collison).
     I strongly believe that OKC can win these Finals in under 6 games. Unless Lebron has another 45 point game and Wade plays like a superstar and drops 35….it would still be a close finish to the game.
    Let me know what you think in the comments, who will win tonight? Will Lebron go carzy again? Will that be the downfall of Miami? Several Miami players are known to have commented on how Miami doesn’t feel like a team and how they wish there was more ball movement instead of just Iso plays of Lebron. 
    Lebron tried to win it by himself in Cleveland, it doesn’t work, just ask Kobe. Until Lebron realises that he has some great outlet options in Bosh, Battier and Chalmers, I doubt they will get near the trophy. Even Cole showed that he has some talent during the regular season and he didn’t even play on Tuesday. The Miami coach basically played 6 players on Tuesday and only two of them shot the ball in the last 24 minutes.

NBA Finals Preview

We have the final everyone wanted. Miami Heat, the most exciting team to watch.
                                                     Oklahoma City, the other most exciting team to watch.

Both cities couldn’t be more different if they tried. 
Bosh, Westrbook, Wade, Harden, Durant, Lebron. One thing is for sure, it’s going to be incredible. 

There are far too many talking points to cover. Will Bosh impact the game like he should. Will Chalmers be able to defend Westbrook. Will Chalmers even defend Westbrook. Will Iblocka maintain his incredible shooting percentage. Will Lebron choke. Will Perkins miss another dunk.  
I don’t want to drown you in this post. I instead want to talk about 2 things.

1) The game will not be won by either team’s “Big 3”.
Do I need to type all 6 names out again? We have the MVP, the runner up MVP. One of the most explosive and attacking point guards. The most undervalued forward. The 6th man of the year….oh and Dwayne Wade.  
Bosh, Wade and Lebron average 67.7 points per game for the Heat.
Harden, Westbrook and Durant average 67.1 points per game for the Thunder.
Unless you really want to tell me that Heat will win every game by 1 point, I fail to see how the game will be won outright by these 6 players.
I know Lebron dropped 45 against Boston, but Durant is the best scorer in the league. Logically, these 6 players will cancel each other out. Unfortunately it is never that simple, especially given Lebron’s history in the Finals (avg 19 ppg). However, for this reason, I’m going to predict that Oklahoma will win the NBA finals. The effort from Perkins, Iblocka and Sefolosha will exceed that from Chalmers, Haslem and….Miller? Oklahoma have a deeper and stronger squad in my opinion. But this is the NBA Finals, a stage where anyone out of 6 all star, superstar, super, suplerlative players can take over and send their fans into delirium. 

 2) The difference between Lebron and Durant is their personality. 
 The massive difference in their personality can be seen in one week during July of 2010. This was when Lebron announced his move to Miami via the TV fiasco “The Decision”. This was followed up by “The Celebration” as he joined Wade and Bosh in a smoke filled Miami Heat arena to the cheers of wealthy, cocktail sipping fans. Finally, who can forget the famous “…not 3, not 4, not 5….not even 6!” speech (in reference to how many titles Miami would go on to win).
The day before “The Decision”, Durant quietly announced that he had signed a further 5 year contract with Oklahoma. He simply posted on Twitter, “God is great, me and my family came a long way”. 
Lebron’s contract is littered with opt-outs should his romance with the Heat not work out.
Durant is property of Oklahoma until 2016. There are no opt-outs for him. To be honest, I don’t think he would ever want to leave anyway. 

To my close friends, it’s no surprise that I will be cheering for Oklahoma during the Finals. If anything, this post should show how optimistic I am that they will win, but you can never be sure, especially with the Miami Heat standing in Oklahoma’s way. 

Lebron Will Be Stopped.

             I recently watched the documentary that follows Lebron James through his High School years, ‘More than a Game’. Considering how much I dislike James as a person, the documentary manages to highlight a human and dare I say loveable side to him. There’s no doubt he is the best basketball player on the planet at the moment (with an exception to my ‘My Player’ in NBA 2K12), but is he the most valuable? Now that Miami are without the interior presence of Chris Bosh we will see just how valuable he is.
             I’m under the assumption that should anything happen to James, Wade or Bosh, then Miami would still be favourites for the Championship because of how good all 3 players are. However, Indiana made it very clear that the Heat are not the same team when all the 3 superstars aren’t on the floor. Boston revealed this flaw during Game 3 of the Eastern conference Finals. I am however writing this from the air so I’m unaware of the Game 4 result.
             Game 3 highlighted how much length the Heat lack. With Bosh out of the squad, Battier has been forced to play more minutes. With Kevin Garnett in the form he has been in, it wouldn’t have been a surprise for him to post impressive numbers in this series. The number of balls that were thrown over his markers head into the paint during game 3 was insane. He found it so easy to switch on his marker and get basket side. With Rondo as the point guard, Boston were getting a lot of easy buckets. It should also be noted that when Boston play without Kevin Garnett in the playoffs, they concede 29 more points per game on average. Boston doesn’t really have much right to still be in the series and I wouldn’t be surprised if Game 4 ended as a W for Miami. The fact remains however that without Bosh, the Heat have a very big weakness, one that Perkins and Ibaka cannot wait to exploit (assuming OKC beat SAS).
             Oklahoma are a jump shooting team. For a while I thought this would be their downfall against the Lakers. Can they really shoot over 50% from the floor every night?! Unfortunately they can as someone always seems to step up. The talent in the squad is so deep. Westbrook had a terrible game offensively in Game 4 against San Antonio. He is also one of the most passionate players in the league, so even though his shots weren’t falling, his “hustle” stat was maxed out at 99 all night long. He made a lot of key defensive plays.
             I know what you’re thinking- so how many did Durant score? Durant was very, very quiet for the first 3 quarters of the game. It’s how he operates and what he did every game against the Lakers. The man literally turns on a clutch button and starts draining everything in the last 12 minutes, it’s unbelievable. So how did OKC win a few nights ago of Westbrook and Durant were so quiet during the first 3 quarters? James Harden continues to fill the shoes of 6th Man of the Year. Not only that, but Ibaka ended up with 24 points of 10 for 10 shooting. Perkins played more aggressively than I’ve ever seen. Even when certain players don’t show up for OKC until the 4th quarter, or at all in Westbrook’s case, they still have players that put points on the board. Is this the case for Miami?

                                                             Hell no.

             Wade and Lebron have been carrying that team since Bosh has been injured. Yes a few of their players have scored 10/12 points off the bench but they don’t contribute anywhere near as much as Harden and Ibaka have.
             I’m certain that Miami will beat the paint attacking team of Boston, but OKC will provide a very different challenge to Miami. I feel that it would be a much more exciting final than if San Antonio were to overcome Oklahoma.

             Apologies if I hurt your feelings by writing negatively about James. I just really don’t want him to win a ring. A thin line divides arrogance and confidence. A line that Lebron is somehow impervious to.