Tag: Miami Heat Oklahoma City

Thabo Sefolosha, Reggie Jackson, Kevin Durant, Kendrick Perkins

Thunder want to remind you that you counted them out before


MIAMI — Just a couple weeks ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder were down 2-0 to a San Antonio Spurs team that had won 20 games in a row and looked pretty dominant doing it. Everyone was starting to picture how the Spurs matched up with the East.

Four games later, the Thunder were in the NBA finals for the first time since moving to Oklahoma City.

“Our guys know, it’s fresh in our minds,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of that comeback. “It was just last series that we were down 0-2. I mean, we’re definitely down. Our back is against the wall, but it’s not over. We still have some fight in us. We’re just going to have to play tomorrow night with the urgency that you have to play with, that we’ve done.”

They have been close — Miami is up 3-1 in the NBA finals but all of the Heat’s victories have been by single digits. The total points scored through four games has the Heat up just +5. The Thunder have had their chances in every game, but Miami has executed better late. Miami has gotten contributions from guys like Mario Chalmers (25 points in Game 4) and Shane Battier.

The Thunder were a dejected team in the wake of Game 4, but by Wednesday afternoon they just sounded more frustrated at their blown chances. They know they don’t need much to get a win.

Just something like the real James Harden to show up. He had better in Game 5 and if he does the Thunder might well force a Game 6.

But don’t expect Brooks to change things up.

“I don’t think the game comes down to who plays and who doesn’t play. It’s how we play,” Brooks said. “I think the last couple of games they made a few plays that we did not make, and it always comes down to that.”

To a man the Thunder thought that if they can win Game 5 and get this series back to Oklahoma City, they stand a real chance.

What’s that going to take? Westbrook said toughness.

“We’ve just got to pay attention to the details,” Kevin Durant said. “We’ve got to do the smart things. We’ll be fine.”

LeBron says he feels better, rest of Heat sound business like

Udonis Haslem, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade

MIAMI — There was a calm confidence around the Miami Heat as they went through practice Wednesday in preparation for Game 5 Thursday night. You could sense it. They may be up 3-1 with a chance to close it out, but they were business like.

“Honestly, it feels like a normal prep day,” Shane Battier said. “You come in, get treatment, look at film, talk about adjustments. For us it’s about building, it’s about getting better. After looking at the tape there is so much room for improvement.”

The biggest improvement would be a healthy LeBron James — who cramped badly in his legs near the end of Game 4.

“I feel a lot better than we did last night, that’s clear…” LeBron said Wednesday after a light “practice” that say nothing physical for the key rotation players. “I’m still a little sore because of the muscles just kind of being (used) at an intense level. Very tight, I’m still sore.”

The Heat expect him to be all the way back and ready to go come Thursday night.

There have been no easy wins for the Heat in this series — all three of their victories have been by single digits. They seemed to recognize that if they coast even a little — something that as a team they have been prone to do — they will be on a plane headed back to Oklahoma City for Game 6 rather than in a parade through South Beach.

But they were business-like in their approach to it. Battier said that started with Pat Riley and flowed through Erik Spoelstra.

“You’ve got to absolutely immerse yourself into the process and the focus,” Spoelstra said. “It’s Game 5. We want to treat it as a Game 7….

“It’s been well documented the experience we went though last year and the pain and all that. It doesn’t guarantee anything. Experience is a great teacher. You know, hopefully all those experiences will help us.”

The Heat carried themselves like a wise, experienced team on Wednesday. We’ll find out Thursday night if they really have learned from the past.

Reflective LeBron admits he was “immature” last year

LeBron James

MIAMI — This was a different LeBron James.

The LeBron James that went through practice and spoke with the media Wednesday was different from the one at last year’s finals — a more mature, more relaxed LeBron who was comfortable in his own skin in a way he simply was not before. Different than the guy from “the decision.”

A reflective LeBron recognized the changes in himself.

“Last year after Game 6, after losing once again, I was very frustrated,” LeBron said. “I was very hurt that I let my teammates down, and I was very immature.

“Like I said, last year I played to prove people wrong instead of just playing my game, instead of just going out and having fun and playing a game that I grew up loving and why I fell in love with the game. So I was very immature last year after Game 6 toward you guys and toward everyone that was watching.”

LeBron said that last year he felt the pressure, but this time around it is not getting to him.

“Last year (the pressure) was much more than today,” James said. “I remember being Game 5 last year with the series tied 2-2, it just felt like more pressure, felt like it was more people here, felt like you guys (in the media) not only brought yourselves but brought your relatives all to Dallas. It just seemed more.

“And I may be wrong. I probably am wrong about that. But I’m just more comfortable. I think just me being more comfortable and me just trying to seize my opportunity.”

He gets his first chance to seize the Larry O’Brien trophy on Thursday.

LeBron also said that he felt “a lot better” than he did the night before after his legs cramped up in the fourth quarter. He expects to be ready to go full tilt Thursday night.

Video: Micro-Movie of NBA finals Game 4 win for Heat

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat - Game Four
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These NBA finals have been fun. Entertaining. Two teams both giving it full effort. The total score through four games is Miami +5. That’s it. The series has been that close. The only sad part is that they may not go on a whole lot longer.

So take a moment to enjoy Game 4 — which had enough twists and turns for its own roller coaster — before we shift our focus on the Game 5. This is the micro-movie for Game 4 as put together by NBA.com, who is killing it with this series.

Try to savor the fact there has been a lot of great basketball played.

Thunder try to keep heads high, but Game 4 was a punch to the gut

Derek Fisher, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden

What frustrates its players and fans most in Oklahoma City is not getting blown out of the NBA Finals. They may be down 3-1 in the series but every game has been close — in total points it is Heat +5 though four games. That’s it.

But it didn’t feel like that in the Thunder locker room Tuesday night.

You could hear a pin drop. This was a team with dejected body language and quiet speaking voices — they looked like a team that took a punch to the gut.

Because they did. The Thunder were up 17 in Game 4, they were ahead by 2 with four minutes left and LeBron James on the bench, and they couldn’t close it out.

“We missed some good shots, some wide open shots…” Serge Ibaka said of the fourth quarter in a quiet Thunder locker room Tuesday night. “When you miss some good shots, there is nothing you can do.”

We tend to want to find people to blame on the losing team, but that’s not fully appropriate here because the Thunder feel like a young team learning another hard lesson on what it takes to be a champion. A lesson the Heat learned the hard way last season.

You can try to blame Russell Westbrook because of his late bonehead foul, but if not for his stellar play and 43 points, the Heat would have blown this game open by 20.

James Harden has taken criticism and he has not been himself — the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year couldn’t even execute a breakaway layup in the fourth quarter of Game 4. He’s trying to get others involved and is turning the ball over. He’s in his own head.

As he should, coach Scott Brooks has his young star’s back.

“James has put us in a position to be where we are,” Brooks said after the game. “He had a tough shooting night, but he competed, he battled, he fought, he defended. He was guarding one of the best players in the game. I don’t judge a guy’s game on shots, on makes and misses. This game is about makes and misses.

“Some nights you’re going to make those, some nights you’re going to miss them, but your effort has to be there. I love James’ effort and that’s all I judge him on. If he wasn’t playing hard, yes, I would have taken him out earlier and sat him and put somebody else in. We have a standard of play and effort-wise I think everybody lived up to it tonight.”

The Thunder haven’t played poorly, but they haven’t played well enough. They haven’t adjusted to the Heat’s rotations, their role players are not stepping up like the Heat’s, and the Thunder are not getting enough out of one of their big three.

It’s not a fatal flaw, it’s growing pains. Which suck for Thunder fans and players. But teams and players have to learn how to win in the NBA and OKC seems to be getting one final lesson.