Posted Jun 20 2012 1:48PM
MIAMI -- The Miami Heat are a win away from a championship. And as they've done throughout the season, the Heat have proven that they can win games with their offense or their defense.
In Game 3, the Heat were able to win ugly. They shot a brutal 5-for-31 from outside the paint, but held the Oklahoma City Thunder's potent offense under a point per possession to take a 2-1 series lead.
In Game 4, the Thunder were better offensively, as Russell Westbrook attacked the basket and shot well from the outside. But the Heat also found a rhythm offensively to pick up their third straight win in the series.
The Heat were better from the outside than they were two days earlier, of course. They really couldn't get worse than 5-for-31, or even come close to repeating such futility. In Game 4, they were 15-for-44 (34 percent) from outside the paint.
But the Thunder were still better from the perimeter, shooting 20-for-43 and outscoring the Heat 43-40 from outside the paint. And once again, the difference was Miami's ability to get to the basket and to the line.
Between baskets in the paint and attempts at the line, the Heat outscored the Thunder 64-55. They shot 23-for-35 (66 percent) in the paint and got to the line 25 times.
LeBron James hit a huge 3-pointer while dealing with leg cramps in the fourth quarter. But overall, he struggled from the perimeter once again, shooting just 2-for-9 from outside the paint in Game 4. He's now 7-for-34 (21 percent) from outside the paint in the series.
That hasn't mattered much, because James has continued to attack the basket. After shooting 51 percent of his shots from the paint in the first three rounds, James has shot 62 percent of his shots from the paint in The Finals.
|LeBron James' shooting, 2011-12|
|P = From the paint|
O = From outside the paint
P%FGA = Percentage of total shots from the paint
In last year's Finals, James took just 46 percent of his shots from the paint.
On Tuesday, James shot 6-for-8 in the restricted area and 8-for-11 in the paint overall. And James did more work in the post than he had earlier in the series.
Four of James' field goals came via post-ups or back-downs. And three of his 12 assists also came from the low post. The 12 dimes were the second-most of James' season (he had 13 on Jan. 4 vs. Indiana) and one shy of his postseason career high.
The Heat are now 19-2 this season (4-0 in the playoffs) when James records eight or more assists. Both losses were in Orlando.
Westbrook did his best to get this series even, coming through with one of the best Finals performances in recent memory. With 11 buckets in the paint and nine more from mid-range, Westbrook led all scorers with 43 points. And his 20 field goals were more than any player has had in any game over the last two seasons.
|Most field goals, single game, last two seasons|
The last player to make 20 or more field goals in a game was Luis Scola, who had 20 against New Jersey on March 13, 2010. The last player to have 20 or more on the road was Andre Miller (22) in Dallas on Jan. 30, 2010 (OT).
Westbrook's shot selection wasn't much different than it had been in the first three games of the series. In fact, you can argue that it was worse. On Tuesday, 12 of his 32 shots (38 percent) were from mid-range, the most inefficient place to shoot. In the first three games, only 20 of his 68 shots (29 percent) were from mid-range.
But in Game 4, the shots went in. Westbrook's nine makes from mid-range were the most in his career (354 games), but also followed a trend that he's developed in this postseason.
Prior to these playoffs, Westbrook had made seven or more shots from mid-range four times in 335 career games (and only once before this season). And in 19 playoff games this year, he's done it four more times.
If Westbrook was wearing the goat horns prior to Tuesday, they're firmly on the head of James Harden at this point. Harden had a big game (21 points on 7-for-11 shooting) in Game 2, but has shot just 6-for-26 in the other three games.
One problem is that the Heat aren't allowing Harden to get as many shots as he'd like. After attempting 18.5 shots per 36 minutes through the first three rounds, he's attempted just 15.0 per 36 in The Finals.
Another problem is that his ratio of mid-range to paint shots is more than double (8/15, 0.53) than it was in the first three rounds (21/89, 0.24).
Earlier in the playoffs, the Thunder started leaning on Harden more in the clutch than they had in the regular season. But in The Finals, Harden has more turnovers (two) than shots (0-for-1) in clutch time (the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with a score differential of five points or less).
As a team, the Thunder are 8-for-21 in clutch time in The Finals. That's not awful, but the Heat have been better, shooting 10-for-21. Of the Heat's 21 shots, 11 have come from the paint. Of the Thunder's 21, nine have come from the paint.
|2012 Finals clutch-time shooting|
And the Heat have had a huge advantage at the line in clutch time, outscoring the Thunder 13-2 on clutch-time free throws. And only six of their 15 attempts have come with a lead and the shot clock off (where OKC was forced to foul). Another four came via bad fouls by Harden (in Game 3) and Westbrook (in Game 4).
Free throws and shots in the paint. That's been the theme all series.
All numbers courtesy of NBA.com/stats.
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