In a lot of ways, we’ve been waiting for this moment ever since LeBron James was drafted. Because isn’t it what we expect with all phenoms? Surely a once-in-a-generation talent has to win at least ONE championship in his career. And now, as the Heat take a dominating 3-1 series lead in the NBA Finals, the moment may soon be upon us.
Perhaps our early anticipation slowed time and caused us to feel that, even at 27, James’ first ring, should he finally capture it here and now, will have come much too late for such a talented basketball player. And, given how close he’s come in the past, perhaps this championship IS overdue.
The brilliance in the Heat taking Game 4, though, is now we are all but guaranteed a huge LeBron James story. Either the man we can’t stop comparing to Michael Jordan will finally get his first ring, or the man we’ve labeled a choke artist will have his most epic collapse yet. For those of us who don’t have a dog in the fight, it’s a pretty great situation.
But before we can talk about King James the NBA champion, the Heat have to win one more game. In order to stop them, Oklahoma City will have to win three including one on the road. The irony here is that is what Miami has just done to the Thunder.
So maybe OKC can turn the tide again, but I don’t think so. I think the Heat, whether it be in 5, 6, or 7 games, have this championship sewn up. Just don’t tell Erik Spoelstra that because I can’t endure another one of those weasel grins.
I should omit, however, that this latest prognostication comes on the heels of me being wrong about Game 4. I thought Oklahoma City was going to come into Miami tonight and even the series. I thought that these two teams were so evenly-matched that it was impossible for one of them to win three in a row. In case you haven’t been paying attention, I got that last part dead wrong.
But I think the fact that I overlooked is that the fact that these two teams are so close to one another in competitiveness is a double-edged sword. While it ensures us an exciting series (as it has been so far), it also guarantees that just about every game is going to go down to the wire. And, when the games are that close, they really can go either way.
In fact, if you played each one of these first four games over again 100 times each, I bet you wouldn’t get much more than a 60-40 split either way. Possessions in the NBA are so easily won and lost, one mental error can prove to do more harm than 43 points could ever do good (sorry, Westbrook).
Just take this latest Game 4, for example. There wasn’t one pivotal moment, there were dozens. People are going to remember the Westbrook foul, and that’s fine. But they should also remember just about every other play in the last five minutes.
What if LeBron’s leg doesn’t cramp up and he doesn’t stay at one end of the floor cherry-picking? What if Dwayne Wade rethinks taking a rare three-pointer? What if Kevin Durant sinks one more indefensible jumpshot? I don’t want to say a professional championship boils down to a luck-infused crapshoot, but it kind of does when two teams are neck and neck.
But there are other parts that are not just fate-based. Going into these finals, there was no hiding the fact that the Thunder were the less-experienced team and that inexperience has peeked through time and time again. For all the heat (pun intended) LeBron takes for not being able to finish games, the Thunder have absolutely imploded late in Games 3 and 4. Perhaps, like it was with Miami last year, this Thunder team is going to have to learn some lessons the hard way before they capture a title.