After three games of a dream NBA Finals matchup, the one thing that fans can be assured of is that they are getting their money’s worth. The two most talented teams in the NBA have shown stretches throughout of the three games showcasing their incredible talents. Winning their first home game, the Heat have taken a 2-1 edge in the series, but don’t expect this contest to swing any one way yet.
The lead-up to the crucial Game 4 will now be the make-or-break moment for the OKC Thunder’s season. A win puts them level 2-2 with Miami and brings the home court advantage back to Oklahoma City. A loss puts them in a 3-1 hole with Miami having one more home game in hand and just one more win away from winning a championship.
For an event as massive and crucial as the NBA Finals, it’s the smallest of details that decide the difference between soaking in victory champagne or wallowing over a depressing loss over the long off-season that follows. Crucial offensive rebounds by Chris Bosh. A late three-pointer as the shot clock expires by Russell Westbrook. Nick Collison’s work on the offensive boards. Shane Battier finding his three-point range. Dwyane Wade's steal in the last minute. And of course, crucial plays by the biggest stars – LeBron and Durant – which will go a long way in deciding which one of the two phenomenal young talents wins a championship ring first.
Here is a recap of the first three Finals games held over the past week:
Game 1: Miami was greeted by a loud, raucous crowd in Oklahoma City, but they fought against it to quiet down the home fans early in the game. LeBron James and more unexpectedly – Shane Battier – came up big early for Miami to give them a 13 point lead. But OKC turned the game around in the second half: playing strong defense on one end and relying on an offensive barrage by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder made an inspiring comeback to take the lead at the end of the third quarter and then dominate the fourth to win their first ever Finals game, 105-94. Durant showed his clutch gene by hitting big shots and ending up with 36 points and 8 rebounds, while Westbrook added 27, 11, and 8. The two players eclipsed a big night by reigning MVP LeBron James who had 30 points and 9 rebounds.
Game 2: A deja-vu scenario to the first game: once again, the Heat took a commanding first quarter lead and the Thunder were left to do the hard work in trying to make a comeback. This time, LeBron (32 points 8 rebounds) got ample help from his deputies Dwyane Wade (24) and Chris Bosh (16 points 15 rebounds). The Thunder made an expected comeback in the fourth, but their response seemed to be too little, too late. A last minute flurry cut the Miami lead to two points, but a Durant miss in the dying seconds helped Miami survive for a win to tie the series at 11, 100-96. Durant had 32 points in the loss.
Game 3: OKC didn't allow themselves to fall into a hole this time as this was most-closely contested game of the series. Bothered by foul trouble, Kevin Durant missed the majority of a crucial third quarter where Miami made a commanding run. the difference between the two sides eventually came down to the charity stripe: Miami hit most of their clutch free throws and OKC missed one too many. In the end, LeBron (29 points 13 rebounds) and Wade (25, 7, and 7) were too much for OKC as they won 91-85 to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
The O’Brien Files: A little taste of Playoff history - 25 – Despite being a three-time MVP with two previous trips to the NBA Finals, LeBron James’ career-Finals high before 2012 was a relatively-low 25 points. LeBron surpassed his own high in all three of the games his year, going for 30, 32, and 29 points.