Starting 5: Miami on the verge & Westbrook steps up during AND after the game


Every morning, we’ll give you five things from the night before in the NBA to start your day.

1:  Miami on the verge of a title

The Miami Heat, and LeBron James, are just one game away from an NBA Championship.  The Oklahoma City Thunder are a game away from a killer offseason with a lot of “what-if’s” rattling around in their heads. 

The thing about this series is that it could easily be 3-1 OKC.  I’ll repeat what I said after Game 3:  The Thunder look like a team playing in their first Finals.  

Last night, when Russell Westbrook was going OFF (more on that later) in the fourth quarter, they started to get away from that and look for Kevin Durant.  And while I KNOW Kevin Durant is that team’s MVP, and I KNOW Westbrook gets fairly criticized for taking bad shots without getting Durant the ball, but that wasn’t the case in the fourth.  Westbrook was driving and finishing at the rim, taking advantage of his ability to get past Dwyane Wade.  These weren’t jumpers early in the shot clock.  The flow of the game was taking Westbrook to the rim any time he wanted it, and he stopped doing it.  The sad part of his night is the foul he committed off the jump ball late in the game that he didn’t need to commit.  That tarnishes an epic performance.  But it shouldn’t overshadow it.

Meanwhile, LeBron has his “moment”… falling to the floor with debilitating cramps (I know that’s going to fuel jokes, but cramps are no joke) but managing to hit a HUGE 3 before he couldn’t get off the bench anymore.  It will probably get blown out of proportion, but it happened.  And it continues the trend of LeBron coming up big when he has the chance.  This is a different year. 

And we can’t forget Mario Chalmers, who stepped up with 25 points.  If someone not named Bosh, Wade, or James gets 25 for the Heat, they’re probably not going to lose.  

2:  Harden needs to wake up, fast

I don’t want to say “Oklahoma City is the better team” when they’re down 3-1 because I wholeheartedly believe that if you really are “better,” you’d win the game. 

But the Thunder have more than enough talent and ability to beat the Heat.  And if James Harden doesn’t wake up quickly, that talent and ability will never exist anywhere other than on paper.  

Harden was supposed to be the advantage off the bench.  He’s the wild card.  But he’s killing the Thunder by coming nowhere close to the guy we’ve seen in every series up until this one.  He was not only 0-4 in the 4th quarter last night, his jumper with the Thunder down five at 2:08 was taken under such duress, you’d think he was doing it at the command of a kidnapper giving orders to save a family member.  He wanted NOTHING to do with that jumper, even though when he first got the ball above the right elbow, he was WIDE open. 

Harden has been a huge key to the Thunder’s success.  Right now, he’s a huge key to the Thunder’s failure.  It was evident last night when he looked like someone else had stolen his jersey, put on a big fake beard, and tried to pretend he was “James Harden.”  OKC needs the guy who won the 6th man trophy to show up in Game 5, or their season will be over very quickly.


LeBron cramps up, hits a bucket, then hits a huge 3


Wade and Chalmers with clutch buckets

Russell Westbrook’s huge fourth quarter

4:  Line of the Night:  Russell Westbrook – 43 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists

Westbrook has taken his fair share of, and I swear no pun is intended here, heat this series.  And I’ve given him some of that for ill-advised, out-of-the-flow jumpers.  But Westbrook is capable of blowing past just about any defender in front of him.  His sheer athleticism and constant attack-mode make the 17-point fourth quarter explosion a constant possibility.  The fourth quarter last night was a thing of beauty that, in reality, could have been produced an even bigger number had (a) he gotten a few calls that he deserved and (b) he kept attacking until Miami proved they could stop him.

This COULD have been a 50 point game for Westbrook.  Scott Brooks has to hope Westbrook can take advantage of his matchups in Game 5 so OKC can try to make history in Games 6 and 7.

5:  You can quote me on that

No, it was just a miscommunication on my part.  Nothing I can do about it now
     -Russell Westbrook, on the foul he committed with :13 left 

Let me get this straight, what you guys say doesn’t make me happy, make me sad, doesn’t do anything.  It’s all about my team and us winning a game.  I don’t have a personal challenge against you guys, and it’s not me against the world.  It’s not the world against me.  It’s me and my teammates trying to win.
     -Westbrook, on the media criticism 

It was very frustrating because I’m a competitor, and I want to be out there to help my team.  But like I said, it’s a team game, and that’s why we have those other guys out there that’s going to make plays, even if I’m not available or someone else is not available.  That’s what it’s been for us all season and all Playoffs.  When someone goes down for any reason, guys step up.
     -LeBron James, on sitting out the last moments of the game with cramps