Right from the get go the Thunder looked like a different team. No they were still young, but their mindset at the start of the game has never been seen since maybe Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs. After trailing big at the beginning of games since Game 6 against the Spurs, the Thunder finally got off on the right foot and looked virtually impossible to stop. The Thunder jumped on the Heat with a 13-3 run to start a pivotal Game 4 which would either give the Heat a commanding 3-1 series lead or a tied series and a Game 6 in OKC assured. The Heat however would make a little run midway through the 1st quarter and would cut the lead in half. But still, the Thunder led by Russell Westbrook kept going at the teeth of the Heat’s defense and put the lead back up to double-digits and it looked likely that the Thunder would have a 17 point lead to end the quarter. But an unlikely source of energy from the Heat’s bench gave the Heat a bucket that would send them to the second quarter with energy. No it wasn’t Mike Miller, no it wasn’t James Jones, but it was the little guy, point guard Norris Cole. Cole would knock down a three pointer with 3.1 seconds left in the 1st which would turn out to be the start of a Miami Heat-like comeback.
After a three point field goal miss by James Harden, who again was nowhere to be found in this game and for most of the 2012 NBA Finals, the Heat began the run. In a span of 5 minutes and 58.1 seconds, which includes the final 3.1 seconds in the first quarter, the Heat knocked down 5 three-pointers. Two from Norris Cole (one at the end of the 1st and one at the start of the 2nd), one from James Jones after two lay-ups by Wade and James, one from Dwyane Wade after a three point play by Chalmers and a jump shot by Westbrook, and finally a three pointer by Mario Chalmers after a rare Harden three pointer. After that run, however, the Heat were still 2 points behind the Thunder. Wow. Despite the two teams beginning to trade buckets and trade runs, the Heat would not be able to take the lead mainly because of the tremendous shooting and aggressiveness displayed by Russell Westbrook. Westbrook has been heavily criticized this entire NBA Finals, not to mention his entire NBA career, as being out of control and basically a “stupid” decision maker. However, that was not the case through the first 2,866.2 seconds of the game as Westbrook was basically looking like a man possessed on a positive note. What about the other 13.8 seconds of a full-length NBA game? Well … more on that later on this post. I bet most of you already know.
Anyways, the Thunder still managed to have a 49-46 point lead at halftime and in the third quarter, they began to loose control of the game. Mario Chalmers, who would end up having one of his biggest energy and productive-wise games in his NBA post season career, would hit a floated which would tie the game up for the first time since 2-2 at the start of the game. After a Kevin Durant fade away jump shot, Chris Bosh would ferociously answer back with a three point play and would eventually give the Heat their first lead of the game. The Thunder would answer but the Heat would strike back and take the lead and after big shots by Wade, Chalmers and Battier, the Heat were able to put some cushion on their lead as they lead 71-66 with 4:23 left to play in the 3rd. From that point on, it would be the league MVP’s time to shine. LeBron would score the Heat’s last 8 points of the quarter and would help the Heat have a 79-75 lead heading into the 4th.
The final quarter turned around and the Heat looked as if they had total control of the game after back-to-back field goals from Mario Chalmers which included a three pointer which forced the Thunder to call for time. But the Thunder kept coming back led by Westbrook. Both teams would begin to trade baskets once again and the game would begin to become another NBA Finals classic, just as the past 3 games has been in this year’s NBA Finals. Westbrook would lead the charge for the Thunder and would tie the game up at 90 midway through the 4th. The Thunder would eventually take the lead later after a Durant jump shot but the Big 3 of Miami turned up the heat. Bosh would hit a lay-up, James would hit a shot-clock beating three pointer, and Wade would make a tough lay-up in the paint. But Westbrook’s brilliant performance throughout the game wasn’t finished yet, Westbrook would cut into the Heat’s lead and would make it a one possession game at 98-101 with 40 seconds left. On the ensuing possession for the Heat, Haslem and Harden would have to go one-on-one in a jump ball situation. Haslem would go on to win the tip and Battier was successfully able to tap the ball right into the hands of their point guard. And then, Westbrook would strike. After one of the better or possibly best performances in NBA Finals history, Westbrook would, without any idea of the shot clock, intentionally foul Chalmers who would end up going to the line and make his two freethrows which sealed the game and possibly even the series. Westbrook thought that the shot clock had been turned off and so he decided to foul. In a moment like that, especially in the NBA Finals where you’re down 2-1 in the series, that was stupid.
Game over. Heat lead the series 3-1.
Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals will be live from Miami and would tip off at 9:00 PM ET on ABC
For more NBA analysis and opinions check out Theon’s general NBA blog at THEONBA