In a postseason filled with surprises, it was only fitting that Game 2 of the Finals would end in the least likely manner:
LeBron James came through in the clutch. Kevin Durant did not.
For a basketball-watching public accustomed to the opposite narrative, this set of facts may seem incongruous. On closer examination, though, it made perfect sense.
For further analysis, it would be best to bring in fans from opposite ends of the Finals spectrum. First, an (imaginary) irrational Oklahoma City Thunder fan will explain the home team’s 100-96 loss.
Irrational OKC Fan: “The refs suck! There’s a conspiracy! David Stern wants LeBron and Wade to hoist the title! That’s why the Heat outrebounded us (40-36), out-shot us (47.4%-43%), and fouled less than us (22-21)!”
To temper that opinion, here is a reasonable facsimile of a rational Thunder fan (which does, in fact, exist).
Rational OKC Fan: “Russell Westbrook probably shot a few too many times (10-25 FG), we appear flummoxed by Miami’s small lineup, and we’ve allowed Shane Battier to score 34 points in two games (after he had 50 total in the 7-game Eastern Conference Finals) because our perimeter defensive rotations and offense-defense transitions have been two steps slow. These errors are glaring, but correctible.
“And yes, Kevin Durant missed the potential game-tying shot after some contact from LeBron, but he was classy enough in the postgame interview to deflect any notion of a missed call. Conspiracy theories seem like a stretch.”
Just to balance the picture, here are two fabricated composites of Miami Heat fans.
Irrational Miami Fan: “LeBron rules! Durant drools! How does 32 points (a Finals career high), 12-12 free throws, and superb defense on Durant sound? Hope everyone who ever questioned the King is prepared to choke on his words! And by the way, how about Dwyane Wade (24 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists)? Who’s washed up now, huh?”
Rational Miami Fan: “I really admire Coach Spo for sticking with the small lineup even when it didn’t disrupt the Thunder that much in Game 1. Clearly, he’s taken the time and care to identify the players who are actually useful in this series, which means burying Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf at the expense of more minutes for Battier and Chris Bosh.
“Also, notice how the Thunder can’t even play Daequan Cook (three total minutes this series) because of his matchup issues? Or how Durant, who played some of the best defense against LeBron in the regular season, suddenly could not contest without fouling? What happened to the guy who caged up the King back in March?”
Rounding out the account of Game 2, here’s a brief glimpse into James Harden’s inner thoughts.
Harden’s Inner Thoughts: “21 points on 11 shots and [Russell] Westbrook is still pulling up 1-on-3 to shoot with a 4-point deficit? And my move where I lurch into contact after releasing a three isn’t getting me any calls? That’s funny, I seem to remember it working against the Spurs . . . Maybe I should call Manu again and make sure I’m doing it right.”
The NBA Finals: Where Inexplicable Happens?
About the Author
Written by Steven Jones
Portland native, Highland Park resident, middle school teacher/basketball coach.