If you’re going to win a championship in any sport, you’re going to have to grind out some ugly wins. Football teams are going to have to run the ball and eat some clock. Hockey playoffs are all grind.
And in the NBA, you are going to have to grind out a win with defense and grit.
Which is exactly what Miami did on Sunday night and is why they are up 2-1. Both teams were sloppy in the fourth — both teams have some long, athletic defenders who deserve some credit for this —but in an ugly game the Heat were more comfortable. They kept attacking and they made their free throws, the Thunder had ugly turnovers and missed shots from the charity stripe.
LeBron, he’s good with that. Here is what he told the press on Monday, with quotes via Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.
“We can win 32-31, it doesn’t matter to me… Yeah, I don’t care how we get four [wins in this series]”
The folks at ABC probably don’t want 32-31. But as a playoff series moves on it tends to get uglier. Thunder coach Scott Brooks expects more of it (quote again via Winderman).
“Both teams don’t want to let their opponent get into their offense early, get to their spots.”
The challenge for the Thunder is this is not how they win games. They want to run, have Kevin Durant raining high-arc jumpers and Russell Westbrook carving up a defense with his speed. They are not grinders by nature.
But they are up against a team that can match their athleticism. This series is going to be tight and going to be a grind at points. They need to figure it out fast, because no team has ever come back from 3-1 down in the NBA finals.