John: When I proclaim “What a finals!”, I say it with a tone of disdain and more than a little sarcasm. What we’ve seen so far is two teams that seem to be battling the enormity of this stage every bit as much as each other, and it’s made for sluggish play and a rather odd series.
This always game amazes me one way or another. Last week, I was utterly confident that Oklahoma City was simply playing at another level and would run thru the Heat like they had the Western Confrerence, save for those two games in San Antonio. Instead, what we’ve gotten is a team that showed remarkable poise, grit and, well, balls to reach this point, only to completely poop themselves in the crucial moments of two winnable games. Basically, for all the talk of LeBron being un-clutch and the Heat coming apart when it matters, the Thunder have managed the steal their gimmick, as it were.
There’s no way around it here: This series has been butt ass ugly, featuring two teams who don’t look ready for this time of moment, only one looks less ready than the other. If form holds, Miami is basically gonna win the title be default, even though they certainly deserve their just due for finding a way to get here after being left for dead on more than one occasion in these playoffs.
If you can stomach such a thing, go back and watch Oklahoma City’s 4th quarter possessions. Watch Russell B. Free run around like a mad man, like he thinks he has to be the illest brother just to claim respect when the real illest brother is standing in the corner waiting for passes that never come. Watch the Thunder make several consecutive turnovers in the process off attempting to force feed Kevin Durant, as if all the media talk of who really runs this team is now dictating their strategy. Most importantly, watch them shrink from the moment in an even more pronounced way than they rose to it in the prior rounds of these playoffs. Yeah, I picked this team to win the title this year and I’ve not lost all hope just yet, but based on what I’ve seen it’s hard not to come to an obvious conclusion:
They aren’t ready.
For their part, Miami doesn’t look much better, but they have won 2 of 3 by mostly staying out of their own way and taking the gifts Oklahoma has dropped in their laps. Sure, they shot 38% in game three, but they didn’t miss 9 free throws and score a measly 18 points in the 4th quarter and thus, escaped with a win.
And really, that’s all that matters in the NBA Finals. Nobody is going to remember that OKC was up 9 and on the verge of a knockout blow in the third quarter before Durant picked up a dubious 4th foul and had to sit because really, who fucking cares about that now? If you want to win these games, you do it in the last 12 minutes. Last year, Dallas won the gold trophy by doing just that, while Miami suffered the same fate that appears to be OKC’s lot in this series. Three games in, it appears the Heat have learned just enough in that regard to have them in firm control of this one, while the Thunder have just been a mess in the clutch. To put it kindly, watching them collecting themselves is a bitter scene.
Yeah it’s not over just yet, but it will be if they don’t find a way to win game 4.
As of right now, I don’t like their chances. I just don’t.
Wes: Immediately following this game, Mike Wilbon said that, “… it just keeps getting better and better…”
If by “getting better and better,” he means “worse,” then I agree.
This game was a collection of ugly plays, missed opportunities, poor decisions, and an apparent, all-encompassing allergy to a cohesive and complete effort. To me, neither team played well, and there’s no stat that can convince me otherwise. I judge games based on things like “vibe,” “flavor,” and/or “taste.” Unique, I know – “…originality overflows in me.”
Let me sum it up with these statements:
- Missed free throws
- Horrible calls that take a star player out of the game
- Missed free throws
- Erratic ball-handling
- Awful perimeter shooting
- Sparse interior execution
- Missed free throws
Miami played a game that was offensively offensive. Lebron James was a wrecking machine (legally or not), and was the only one making things happen. Everybody else? Forget it. Guys made enough shots to win this particular game. That’s the best I can say and, fortunately, that’s all that really matters.
As for the Thunder, what we are seeing is one glaring weakness, and it has everything to do with the inability to put the hammer to the final nail. They had countless chances to take this game, and they couldn’t do it. It’s like some new millennium tortoise/hare race, where the obviously physically-superior rabbit keeps running all over the place, crashing into things, getting back up, sprinting way out into the distance, jumping off the course, falling down, etc…. while the other animal just keeps plodding along, STAYING THE COURSE and eventually just lumbering over the finish line. The wired hare remains – nimble, spastic, confused, and lost.
For all of their muscle, it appears that OKC’s mind isn’t ready. The amazing thing is that they’re so loaded with talent that a win over the Heat is completely possible. However, every game provides another example of a vehicle with all the parts and a proverbial navigator who can direct it, yet seems to get off one exit too early.
Sometimes my analogies are constructed alright and come close, but they don’t quite click…
… kinda like the Thunder.