Third time lucky – The belief that the third time something is attempted is more likely to succeed than the previous two attempts. LeBron James, headed into his third NBA Finals, after finishing on the losing end (once with the Cavs, once with the Heat) on both occasions, needs a little bit of luck to finally get his NBA ring.
This time, it’s as an underdog. His first visit to the NBA finals was such. The Cleveland Cavaliers were underdogs in one of the most boring finals in NBA history, reflected by the ratings and the sweep, courtesy of the San Antonio Spurs during their more ‘dull’ phase, although like everything, it’s all a matter of perception.
Last year, the Heat had home court advantage against the Dallas Mavericks. It looked like the bonding of the trio and creating the Big Three paid off. But Dirk Nowitzki was unstoppable, the Mavericks were great defensively and James simply didn’t show up for the fourth quarters. The Heat dropped a 2-1 lead, sending off to a long and pain filled summer.
These playoffs were different. The feeling was that after Derrick Rose got hurt and the Bulls lost him for the playoffs (and much longer), a Western Conference team – either the Spurs or the Thunder, should be considered as the favorite to win the NBA title. The East was suddenly wide open (meaning the Celtics and the Heat or even the Pacers), but the champion will come from the West.
And the Miami Heat didn’t have it easy. Chris Bosh went down after an impressive game 1 win over the Indiana Pacers. The next two games showed just how short the Heat’s bench are, and how little is hiding behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and how even Wade couldn’t be counted on. That was the first down of the postseason.
Then came the realization of how good James and Wade are. Wade had rough openings for the rest of the Indiana Pacers series, but closed averaging 33 points in the last three wins, including a 41 point win at home to close out the series. James had exactly the same route, showing that maybe the series got complicated because they didn’t take Indiana serious enough.
The Boston Celtics were a different kind of beast. The Miami Heat did win the first two games, but went on to lose the next three. A LeBron James masterpiece in the Game 6, which suddenly erased all the clutch and questions around his ability to perform with the back against the wall came next. The Celtics couldn’t hang on to their 3-2 lead, and lost Game 7 in Miami.
The Boston series showed just how great LeBron James is and can be. How the Miami Heat supporting cast doesn’t have to show up in its entirety, but at least three players need to be involved besides the big three. How important Chris Bosh is, off the court and more importantly, back healthy and on the court. But it was mostly about James, who averaged 33.6 points and 11 rebounds per game in the series. He had only 3.9 assists, which probably suggested at the aggressive mindset he was in, especially for the last two games.
And now, a different beast. The most talented squad in the league. No old thing about them. Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and a bit more coming off the bench. Home court advantage for the Oklahoma City Thunder. A deeper team. A younger team. Probably a better team, with a better head coach.
But maybe something changed for the Heat and for James in the series against the Celtics, who have always been somewhat of an Achilles heel for him with their attitude and style. The Thunder, as we’ve mentioned, are something else. More threatening to score on you in a million different ways (well, mostly just three) than rough you up on their way to victory. Size advantage as well. Home advantage, as well.
But they say the third time’s a charm. LeBron James arrives and heads into the NBA finals playing and most dominant type of basketball in his career. Strong, aggressive, focused. All he needs is his teammates to follow suit, and maybe that title ring will be waiting for him at the end of the incredibly difficult road. More difficult than anyone thought he’d have.