These NBA Finals have twisted the narrative and archetypes we thought we knew going in like a double helix. We thought the notions of what the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder are were entangled deeply within them just like a strand of DNA. The pressure-cooker of these Finals has changed those so far. Miami has a 2-1 lead after the 91-85 win Sunday night at home, the first of its three there. Dwyane Wade (25 points, 7 and 7), Chris Bosh (10 points, 11 boards) and LeBron James (29 points, 14 boards) combined to score the final 15 points for Miami, which brought this thing back from the brink of a nine-point deficit. While most everyone was taking a second crack at how wide LBJ’s headband was, he was helping close the Game 3 door. They weren’t supposed to be able to do this “close” thing, but it’s two in a row. Meanwhile, OKC was that young, self-assured, smart-beyond-their-years bunch. Instead late they missed free throws (nine overall misses) and made a crucial turnover down four in the final seconds — a stretch begotten by the way they allowed Miami to come back all night. Talk to us earlier in the fourth, though, and it all could have been backward as the Thunder’s comeback was cooking with fire. Let’s make this series best of 11. … Miami got 10 buckets at the rim in the first quarter with just one jump shot. Oklahoma City’s defense is never in a top three of its talking points, but that was horrific interior defense. James Harden (9 points on 2-of-10 shooting) had a nightmare trying to defend James, unable to hold him as he cut from block to block. Thabo Sefolosha (6 points, a surprising -11 PER) didn’t have an answer to stop a 10-foot hop step in transition. Bottom line: 10 of his first 12 points were in the paint. Porous would have been a generous term for that defense. By the end of the first half the Heat were just 3-of-22 from outside the no-charge zone under the cup. … On the other hand, Kendrick “Scowl” Perkins had as many points (6 — he’d finish with 10 points, 12 boards) as Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant (25 points) at the second quarter’s first ad break. … You guys also see Mike Miller (4 points in 7 minutes) block Durant’s shot, or was that just us? … Shane Battier isn’t just hitting the corner threes anymore; Battier is now calling for the rock coming off screens from 25 feet. We wouldn’t usually prescribe that but he’s unquestionably feeling it. He drilled a triple to tie the game with 22 seconds left in the first half after hitting his only other shot of the half a minute and a half earlier, also from three. … Jeff Van Gundy said Westbrook (19 points, 8-of-18 shots) reminds him of a young Steve Francis. Talk about awakening the echoes. But while JVG tried to change Francis’ attack-first mentality, he loves how Scott Brooks hasn’t done that with Westbrook. This is like the criticism of Rajon Rondo. He can’t shoot the jumper consistently, so he sucks, right? Freak athlete Westbrook doesn’t curb his shooting but that doesn’t mean he can’t recognize situations when he needs to switch it up and dish it out. He’s a work in progress, but what’s already there is more finished than almost any other point in the league. … Hit the jump to read about Sefolosha’s bizarre last seconds.
We sat back and watched OKC with scrutiny like it was in a petri lab dish after Durant picked up his fourth foul halfway through the third. What would they do to keep him away from LeBron, whose attacks were the main cause for a few of them? Do you concede size and layups by putting Thabo on him? Well whatever Brooks told them, Westbrook ran everything through himself in the minutes afterward. The results? Not too spectacular. His stretch: A turnover, missed three, missed layup, charge, subbed-out for Derek Fisher (28 minutes with 9 points). Exhibit A for the prosecution of Russ right there (though we still think he’s innocent). When Durant checked out it was with a seven-point lead. When he returned, it was a four-point Miami lead. … The Heat were trying to give the game right back with seven turnovers on 12 possessions until Wade hit a big runner in the lane. We felt like we were watching Jim Furyk at the Olympic Club with the way it was slipping away. And then, an answer. LBJ caught KD moving on a charge for the bucket and one, KD’s fifth, with 3:47 left. Later he had another incredible spinning layup on a powerful drive on Perkins. You can’t stop what you can’t keep in front of you. … We can’t think of a more contrasting play in this game than the steal by Sefolosha on Wade with under two minutes left in the fourth. Wade casually dribbled up against pressure, lost it once, then lazily crossed over in front of an elite defender in Sefolosha while trying to beat the 8-count. The Swiss Army Knife snagged it, of course, then beat Wade back for a reverse finish over one of the game’s best chase-down artists. All series, especially in Game 1, Wade looked like his mental clock was busted. Too many times we’ve wondered, What is D-Wade doing? This is where the part about switching narratives kicked in in a span of seconds. Down four with seconds left in the fourth, Westbrook cut one way on an OB play, and Sefolosha passed to a different spot for a turnover. How quickly one can go from being the fan favorite to the goat. … A column in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press argues that with a increasing number of people saying how bad they feel about Isiah Thomas‘ 1992 Dream Team snub, USA Basketball should amend the wrong. The idea? Give him an honorary gold medal. The argument built on pillars of sand in our eyes. Thomas was snubbed because of the walk-off in the East Finals the year before, so “The Dream Team” reckoned, but the “lost” history is that it happened only because MJ called the Pistons bad for basketball days earlier. USA Hoops needed to get the best player in the world on its side to secure a domino effect. While Thomas was a singular point guard, his attitude made him disposable and that’s on him — not USA Basketball. … We’re out like the Thunder’s momentum.
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