Heat Over Thunder
byon 06-23-2012 at 04:06 PM (1432 Views)
Just like many others, my take was that Oklahoma City’s youth, athleticism and bench depth would be enough to overpower Miami in this year’s National Basketball Association (NBA) title chase.
Instead, the Heat proved me wrong, terribly wrong. *Their hard-driving physicality, veteran savvy and mental toughness at crunch time were just too much for the Thunder to overcome.
As the best-of-seven NBA Finals progressed from one game to another, a Thunder meltdown became evident as OKC went from being young and relentless to being young and reckless.
In the end, youth was not served and the more experienced Heat took the final four games of the five-game series – including the middle three games (3, 4 and 5) on their home floor – to clinch the second NBA crown in franchise history (the first came in 2006) in their second consecutive trip in the Finals.
Miami also proved to be a very resilient unit, overcoming series deficits in three straight assignments before emerging victorious. The Heat actually were the first club ever to capture an NBA title after trailing in three different postseason series.
The Heat were 1-2 vs. Indiana in the East conference semifinals (before winning in six games), 2-3 vs. Boston in the East finals (before gaining a 4-3 decision) and finally, 0-1 vs. Oklahoma City in the Finals, where the Heat captured Game Two in OKC before posting winning scores of 91-85, 104-98 and 121-106 before their friendly supporters at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
In the Finals, the Heat showed to their skeptics that they were much more than the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade (22.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.40 spg, 1.20 bpg in the Finals) and Chris Bosh (14.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.20 bpg). *
Some members of the supporting cast played their roles well at different times. *
Defense-oriented Shane Battier shot 11-for-15 from beyond the three-point arc (15-for-26 overall in the series) and contributed 43 points (17, 17 and nine) in the first three games (11.6-point average overall). *
Rookie guard Norris Cole knocked in a pair of triples (when OKC was ahead 33-16 in the final seconds of the first quarter) and pesky guard Mario Chalmers collected 25 markers in Game Four.
In the series-clinching Game Five, injury-plagued Mike Miller came off the bench to score 23 points on 7-for-11 field shooting, including 7-of-8 from the trifecta area, and back up an extremely determined James, who finished off the Thunder with a triple-double line of 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists in 44 minutes.
Deservedly so, LeBron was the unanimous choice as the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player in averaging 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 1.60 steals an outing.
Most importantly, the 6-8 prep-to-pro forward claimed his first league championship in nine pro seasons, extinguishing the ghosts of the past where his critics merrily pooh-poohed his various individual accomplishments during the regular season simply because he was not a clutch playoff performer and lacked the much-coveted “ring” in his jewelry box.
Not any more. *James finally gained a championship this season to go with his third Maurice Podoloff (regular MVP) trophy. *He’s the first to turn in the twin trick during the same campaign since Tim Duncan did it with the San Antonio Spurs in 2002-03. *Before James, Duncan also was the last player to post a triple-double in a titles-series clincher (21p-20r-10a, Game 6 vs. New Jersey, 2003).
After all is said of James and the other players, let’s also give some importance to the role essayed by Heat head coach Erik Celino Spoelstra.
The mild-mannered Spoelstra surely was a vital piece to the Heat’s NBA championship puzzle this year. *And he’s also got Filipino heritage.
More on Spoelstra next time.