The eight-man team beat the two-man team. That made perfect sense.
The Miami Heat being the eight-man team, while the Oklahoma City Thunder found itself with two above-average performers? That was where sense departed the 2012 NBA Finals.
After four games that could have gone either way, the host Heat secured its championship with a shooting display for the ages, shredding the Thunder defense with historic outside marksmanship and a relentless transition attack.
While basketball statistics lack the immediate recognition factor attached to baseball’s top marks, plenty of tonight’s numbers deserve further examination.
OKC 23-26, MIA 20-24 (through 3 quarters): After some justified questions about the free throw counts for each team in the previous three games, the trend reversed tonight, with the Thunder attempting and hitting more freebies (while the game was actually in doubt). The officials allowed a healthy amount of contact, forcing both teams to earn everything near the basket.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, the free-throw advantage became completely irrelevant in light of the next stat . . .
14: Everyone watching the game saw ABC’s “Most Three-Pointers By a Team in the Finals” graphic, and noted that the Heat tied the single-game mark tonight. Since Miami came into the game hitting an average of 6.5 threes per playoff contest (seventh among 16 postseason qualifiers), calling this a surprise is underselling it.
7-8: The even greater surprise came from the player who was supposed to be the missing piece after Miami’s infamous Welcome Party, the sharpshooter who was going to make the Heat unguardable, but had thus far mostly delivered disappointment. Mike Miller justified his entire contract by providing the artillery that the Thunder couldn’t match, nailing all but one of his three-point attempts.
The Thunder defense was porous all night, but it absolutely fell to pieces in the face of the long-distance onslaught Miller and Co. unleashed.
Durant 32, Westbrook 19, Rest of Team 55: As in so many Thunder losses this season, the two mainstays did not get enough help. James Harden’s points came mostly in the fourth quarter, after the Heat’s three-point barrage had rendered the outcome a formality.
Westbrook did himself no favors by shooting a Starksian 4-20 from the field, but he attacked the basket relentlessly and had to force a few of those shots when nobody on his team could find a quality shot. Durant scored his 32 points on only 24 shots and never once complained or sold out a teammate.
And now, two enduring images that had nothing to do with stats.
1. As the last few minutes ticked away, Durant, Westbrook, and Harden stood on the sidelines, Harden’s arms wrapped around his All-Star teammates’ shoulders, all three staring out on the court and taking it all in. All three Thunder stars took deserved and undeserved criticism during the Finals, but they never turned on each other, and in all likelihood they will be back.
2. After the final horn sounded, LeBron met Durant and midcourt and wrapped his rival in a huge bear hug as they presumably exchanged congratulations. The mutual respect between the two supreme competitors needed no caption.
Finally, a few words to my loyal readers. Thank you for checking in, leaving your comments, and following this gallant, worthy team all season. Special thanks to JSJ, my biggest fan and the most rational viewer available. Keep an eye out for Summer League, the Olympics, and a lockout-free 2012-13 NBA season. Be well.
About the Author
Written by Steven Jones
Portland native, Highland Park resident, middle school teacher/basketball coach.