NBA Finals Preview from The Sports Network|
Thursday, June 21st
(All times eastern)
(2-W) Oklahoma City Thunder (1-3) at (2-E) Miami Heat (3-1), 9 p.m.
(Sports Network) - LeBron James is closer than he's ever been before.
The Miami Heat superstar is just 48 minutes away from the championship he has
spent nine years chasing, and he and his teammates will try to get it done
Thursday in South Florida when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5
of the NBA Finals.
James fought through painful cramps on Tuesday to knock down the go-ahead 3-
pointer late in the fourth quarter as the Heat moved within one win of the
title with a 104-98 victory over the Thunder.
After sitting on the bench with the cramps, James checked back in to
knock down the shot that put the Heat up for good and sent them to a 3-1 lead
in the series.
"I don't know how he did it," said Chris Bosh, who watched as his teammate was
carried off the floor during a timeout.
James sat wincing on the bench as Heat trainers attended to his left leg. He
said afterward that it felt like his body just shut down but he wanted to go
back into the game.
His go-ahead shot came as the shot clock ticked off its final seconds.
"I just wanted to step up and try to make a play," said James. "If I was out
on the floor I was just trying to make a play with the limited mobility I
James scored 26 points to lead Miami, while Russell Westbrook poured in 43 for
the Thunder, but made a costly error with 13.8 seconds left when he fouled
Mario Chalmers with the shot clock winding down and his team down by three.
The Thunder now face a nasty bit of history: Thirty teams have tried but none
has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in NBA Finals history.
Dwyane Wade and Chalmers added 25 points each in Game 4 for Miami, with
Chalmers getting 12 in the fourth quarter. The Heat overcame a 17-point
deficit in the opening frame for their third straight win.
Kevin Durant finished with 28 for the Thunder.
James slipped in the lane midway through the fourth quarter, was slow to get
up and remained on the Miami side of the floor to score a bank shot after a
Wade block at the other end. After he collapsed back to the floor he was
helped to the bench.
Westbrook had scored 13 straight Thunder points to tie the game at 90 shortly
before James went down. And while the Heat star was out, Durant made a jumper
from the right side to cap an 11-2 Thunder run that gave them a 94-92 lead.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the cramps didn't go away, but James came back
and buried the three from the high right side to make it 97-94 Miami. Wade
added a scoop layup, ending a quick 7-0 burst.
"That three was just sheer will and competitiveness," said Spoelstra.
James went out again with 55.5 seconds left -- they were still working on his
leg during a timeout -- and didn't come back. But the shot he made was good
enough. He added 12 assists and nine rebounds in the win.
"That's what being in these Finals is about," said Bosh, who had 13 points and
nine rebounds, "giving it all you got until you can't walk anymore."
Chalmers put the Heat up by five with a layup. It was followed by Westbrook's
quick bucket after another timeout, but the Thunder guard's mental mistake
cost his team on the other end.
Udonis Haslem hustled for a loose ball after Wade missed a floater and the
Heat got possession after a jump ball. With the shot clock re-set to 5
seconds, Miami had no good look. But Westbrook wrapped up Chalmers, and the
Heat guard hit two foul shots for a five-point lead.
"Just a miscommunication on my part," Westbrook said. "Nothing I can do about
Thunder coach Scott Brooks called it a "tough play" but stuck up for his point
"One play doesn't decide a game," the coach said. "You learn from it and move
on from it. ... He kept us in the game."
The Heat also led Dallas 2-1 last year but lost three in a row as the Mavs
rallied for the title. James had just eight points in Game 4 last season but
now is one win away from his long-awaited first championship.
"It's still all business," said Chalmers. "We got one more win."
A three-time and reigning NBA MVP James is widely considered as the best
player in the game but failed in his first two trips to The Finals, a 2007
sweep at the hands of San Antonio when we was with the Cleveland Cavaliers and
last year's hiccup against the Mavs.
"I have a job to do," James said Wednesday. "And my job is not done."
James received treatment on Wednesday and said the soreness that followed the
cramps in his left leg was easing a bit.
"I feel a lot better than I did last night. That's clear," the All-Star said.
"I'm still a little sore because of the muscles just kind of being at an
intense level, very tight."
OKC remains hopeful despite it can find a way out of its 1-3 hole, citing the
competitiveness of the series so far. The Thunder's three losses have come by
just four, six and six points.
"We didn't get here just to make it here and say we did," Durant said. "We
made it to The Finals. We want to come in here and we want to try to get a
title. It's all about keep competing until that last buzzer sounds, and that's
what we're going to do."
That said not only are teams 0-30 in The Finals when down 3-1, none has ever
even forced a Game 7 while facing that scenario since the league went to its
current 2-3-2 finals format in 1985.
For the Thunder, reserve guard James Harden, the reigning Sixth Man of the
Year who has performed poorly in the series, is expected to play despite
suffering a bruised left hand in Game 4.
Miami and OKC split a pair of regular season meetings with Oklahoma City
forcing 21 turnovers and rolling to a 103-87 victory at home on March 25
before the Heat rallied for a 98-93 win in Miami on April 4.
These two franchises have never met in the postseason before and each have one
NBA championship on their resume. The Heat topped the Mavs in six games back
in 2006 while the Thunder won a title in 1979 as the Sonics, besting the
Washington Bullets in five.
Game 6 of the series, if necessary, will take place on Sunday back in Oklahoma
06/21 10:29:42 ET