This Thunder-Heat series has been absolutely mesmerizing and you best believe that I have an opinion on some of this.
1. Before I get started: the refs. Yes, they stunk. I think if one cared to, they could make a fairly damning highlight reel of calls that went against OKC (I can think of a few off the top of my head: Westbrook’s foul line jumper where he got shoved, Westbrook getting Haslem to bite on the pump fake but not getting the whistle (like Wade did a play or two before), Durant getting fouled coming across the lane by Battier and Wade, Durant getting fouled by Wade on a base line jumper (ESPN’s Mike Breen commented on the fouls of both Durtant plays) and James Harden getting fouled by Wade in the open court before he missed a layup).
1a. Personally, I think they need younger refs (Game 4 refs: Mike Callahan: 53 years. Scott Foster: 45 years old, Bill Kennedy: 44 years old. Joey Crawford reffed Game 3 and he’s 61). Guys in their 50s and 60s are being asked to referee a game between basically Olympic athletes at the peak of their athletic ability. They might miss a few calls.
2. That being said, if you thought the Thunder lost Game 4 because of the refs, we must’ve been watching different games. Miami played harder and smarter (yes, they were physical. They were seeing what the refs let them get away with, turns out, is a lot. They learned that from the Celtics. OKC looked rattled by Miami’s pressure).
3. With the game tied at 90 with about 4 minutes left, Derek Fisher went 1-on-4 (following a LeBron turnover) and got his shot rejected, leading to an easy bucket by LeBron (who had just started to cramp) at the other end. That’s some veteran leadership right there.
4. James Harden has sucked this series and was a main reason OKC lost Game 4. He’s too small to guard LeBron and LeBron simply smother’s him on the offensive end. It’s just a bad matchup for Harden. And Scott Brooks, if I see Harden guarding LeBron in the post one more time, I’ll lose my mind.
5. “If I see Harden guarding LeBron in the post one more time.” LeBron was in the post! And it worked beautifully. Weird.
6. It’s crazy to me how similar this Miami team is to LeBron’s Cavs teams. Shaky second scorer? Check (I have not been impressed by Wade at all). Bench full of spot up shooters? Check. Defensive minded coach who’s offense sputters? Check. Big man who is more comfortable shooting outside and who’s biggest contribution is offensive rebounds? check. LeBron having to do it all? Check.
7. The difference? LeBron. He IS doing it all. He’s not taking bad shots. He’s attacking the rim consistently. He’s going to the post and abusing people. If he’s gonna do that… well… There’s a reason why he’s the three-time MVP.
8. Kevin Durant has to get open more easily. Run him off some picks. Maybe do some misdirection. He can’t be allowing himself to be pushed to outside the 3-point line by the likes of Wade and Battier. The Thunder spend like 8-10 seconds trying to get Durant the ball, and when it fails, Westbrook has to create with the shot clock winding down.
9. Russell Westbrook is a beast. 43 points on 20-32 from the floor. WOW. While he only took just three free throws (made ’em all), I’m not sure how many more times he actually deserved to get to the line (he took a lot of jumpers). But it’s probably more than just three.
10. Thabo Sefolosha, the guy who actually makes LeBron work on offense (and who can smother D.Wade) played just 27 minutes. That is stupid.
11. Also stupid, Thabo not staying up on LeBron and making him drive late in the game. After sitting out due to cramps, James hit a back breaking three with with the shot clock winding down. Why Thabo is giving him the jumper and playing back is beyond me.
12. I don’t like Kendrick Perkins in this series. If he’s not going to be fouling LeBron when James goes inside OR box out Chris Bosh for offensive boards, what is Perkin’s role?
13. OKC still has a shot. Not a big one. Yes, down 3-1 is extremely rough. But they’ve been very close in all of these games. I don’t think they’ll wilt away in Game 5 (though they very well might). They have to get on the plane and fly back to Oklahoma City anyways, might as well play a game (in front of an effing craaazy fanbase) when they get there.
14. That being said, I fully expect Miami to close out in Game 5. But if they somehow have to go back to OKC… wow wouldn’t that be sweet.