|Photo: Greg Nelson/SI|
You also knew, that despite facing a 17 point hole, and with LeBron easily gliding his way to another 30 point game, shooting a perfect 12-of-12 from the charity stripe, Oklahoma City would somehow make a run, close the gap and give their ever-adoring fans something to stand and cheer for. Russel Westbrook wouldn't continue shooting 20 percent from the field, Kevin Durant would find his stride when his team depended on him (ultimately scoring 17 of his 32 points in the second half all while in foul trouble) and Shane Battier would stop hitting open jump shots and become nothing more than a bug for Durant to squish en route to a thunderous dunk in the fourth quarter.
|Miami PF Chris Bosh (Courtesy of SI/AP)|
Yet the Heat never let up their intensity. Despite leading with a hefty margin in the second quarter, Miami PF Chris Bosh let teammate Mario Chalmers know exactly what he thought about an errant pass which caused a turnover by shouting "Bounce Pass Damnit!" repeatedly at him. The scene looked a little something like the video below:
But despite all of Miami's good fortune, the Thunder would come back. Reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden would carry the load for much of the first half, scoring 17 of his 21 points in the first two quarters, and always keep OKC within nagging distance of Miami. Without the help of The Beard, their second half comeback would not have happened.
And while Miami could never completely pull away, they withstood every run Durant and company could muster. Every time the Thunder hacked the lead down to single digits, the Heat would go on another seven point run by pushing the tempo and creating turnovers - the two greatest cornerstones to the team's success.
Yes the final quarter was every bit as entertaining as I had hoped it would have been, but even as Durant buried a desperation 3-pointer to cut the Miami lead to 2 with less than a minute to go, I knew it was too little too late. Oklahoma hadn't led all game long. They played too sloppy for far too many stretches, and had allowed to Heat to outscore them 48-32 in the paint. Why would Miami suddenly relinquish a lead after doing so many things right?
Well, actually, Miami very well could have relinquished a lead after doing so many things right. Last year, this same Heat team blew a 15 point lead and let the Dallas Mavericks even the series 1-1. Even in Game 1 of this year's Finals, the Heat burst out of the gate to another 15 point before falling short in the fourth quarter.
But last night was different. It was different because LeBron James actually made a difficult shot in the clutch (please feel free to read that sentence again, or even a third time if you must). Here, I'll even let you watch it yourself:
His fade-away bank shot over Thabo Sefolosha to give the Heat a 96-91 lead with 1:26 left had suddenly, and quickly, taken away any kind of hope for a Thunder win. How fitting. In a game where Wade, Bosh and Battier stepped up and performed exactly as they should have, the Heat sealed the deal by turning to a player who did exactly the opposite of what he was supposed to do. Choke.