The Miami Heat have been waiting for this moment for six years; LeBron James has been waiting for it 27 years, including the nine he spent in the league, with these past two, since joining the Miami Heat, being extremely difficult. Making the transformation from the chosen one, to the best player in the NBA, to the most hated player in the NBA, to finally being a champion, cementing the beginning of his legacy as one of the greatest NBA Players in history.
Focused and staying the course. That’s what Erik Spoelstra has been talking about all series, which was a bit shorter than some expected it to be after the Conference Finals went to six and seven games. LeBron James didn’t allow himself and his teammates to do too much celebrating until the win was truly in the bag, bringing the win and nothing else attitude each and every single night for 4 straight Finals wins.
They might not be the noisiest fans in the NBA. There may be quite a few bandwagoners among the Miami Heat fans, joining and going only when this team became trendy once again, more than ever before. But they showed up and were probably better and noisier than many expected, as the Heat swept the shell shocked Thunder in Miami, becoming the second NBA team to win all three home games since the 2-3-2 format began.
Early, Positive Signs
The Thunder didn’t look defeated in the first half. They lost games 2-4 by a total of 16 points. They weren’t blown out by the Miami Heat. They came out focused and aggressive in the early going, driving hard to the paint, showing the Miami Heat they’re coming to take the series back to OKC. Ibaka began with two big blocks, but it stayed on two when the game was over, finishing with 9 points and 4 rebounds.
Durant’s Early Goings
Like Ibaka, Durant came out strong. In fact, he averaged 30.6 points during the series, shooting a fantastic 54.8% from the field. Should have been enough, but it wasn’t. Scoring in loads isn’t everything, especially when a lot of players around you keep under-performing. Durant improved a lot in these playoffs, but was probably humbled in the Finals, just like the Miami Heat last year, about what it takes to make the next step.
What Chris Bosh Meant
Building a team hierarchy takes time, especially when you put three guys used to being the Alpha-Males on their previous teams and launch a new project together. This year, and especially in Game 4 of the Conference Semi Finals, everything came together for the Heat. When Chris Bosh came back from his injury, everyone were clear on what their roles are, with LeBron James leading the wagon to the promised land. Bosh was fantastic in the close out game, finishing with a postseason high of 24 points.
The defense completely fell apart for the Thunder in the third quarter, having to go through a 1-19 run. Nothing worked on both ends of the floor, and Kendrick Perkins was the biggest symbol of how this team was out of sync and out of order, falling apart slowly as the series reached it’s culmination point. He just didn’t fit in such a series because of how the Miami Heat played, and how the Thunder went about their things. For too many times, it looked like no one had any idea what to do during possessions, usually ending up with Russell Westbrook doing something on his own.
Westbrook Stark-esque like Night
After pouring 43 points in Game 4, there wasn’t much left for Russell Westbrook to do. So he went back to basics, and turned up with a terrible performance, going 4-20 from the field, finishing with 19 points on what was his worst performance of the series. He’s an amazing talent, but someone has to tame him, limit him somehow. Westbrook is an exceptional offensive talent, but he’s got to learn about making the right kind of decisions, especially when his team is struggling.
The Unlikely Hero
Spoelstra wasn’t planning on playing Mike Miller too much in Game 5. He wasn’t a substantial part of the rotation in the previous games. But he caught fire during the 19-1 run, finishing with 23 points, hitting 7 three pointers in 23 minutes of basketball. Miller, who was painful to watch these playoffs because of how he hobbled his way through the victories, was a huge bonus after being nearly forgotten during parts of this season. How much more does he have left in the NBA? After the press conference, I won’t be surprised to hear him announce a retirement or a break from the game.
Hall of Fame Duo
Dwyane Wade took a step back this postseason, letting LeBron James grab the reigns. For someone who’s been THE player in this city since leading them to the NBA title in 2006, it’s not an easy thing. Wade has been through quite a lot over the last few years, mostly in his private life. He took a lot of criticism about not being good enough and past his prime. He answered with a very good clinching game and a very good series, being the perfect sidekick to the Finals’ MVP.
A little earlier, while Mario Chalmers was waving to the fans, LeBron James stopped him and told him to wait a little longer. Chalmers is used to James talking/shouting at him. He obeyed. At some point, it was all too clear that this was over. LeBron James later said that it was the happiest night of his life. He was OK with the beginning of the celebrations.
Shane Battier, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Norris Cole and even James Jones, Joel Anthony and Rony Turiaf. Pay-rolled by Mickey Arrison. Orchestrated by Pat Riley. Coached by Erik Spoelstra. Your 2011-2012 NBA Champions.
Party Time II
Count on Chris Bosh to stand out during the Miami Heat’s locker room celebrations with his alienesque glasses.
Kevin Durant is the new face of the NBA, or a big part of it. It was hard to see such a talented player and probably a very nice and humble guy look so beaten. It wasn’t supposed to end this way for Thunder, who entered the series booming with confidence, winning Game 1. Somewhere along the way, the Heat picked up on things. The Thunder lost their way, and didn’t execute as well in the clutch. The final game was simply the wheels coming off.
Alone in Defeat
Scott Brooks had Russell Westbrook and James Harden completely go wild and unchecked at times, but that’s a sort of shield for his own mistakes during the series. Yes, it was a lot about shot making and player decisions in most games, but not finding a way to pick up his team’s defense as they were falling apart and not finding an answer to the matchup problems is a lot on his head as well.