In a game that was pretty fantastic from start to finish, the Miami Heat closed out the Thunder with a combination of star power and savvy play. Dwyane Wade was brilliant with 30 points and 9 rebounds (but also 9 turnovers), and LeBron James made the play that encapsulates his career. With the clock winding down, James passed up a fairly good look to dish to Eddie House, a 39.2% 3-point shooter. Bang. Game. Set. Match. And look, he did a dance, too.
The decision to pass on the game winning shot is the kind of thing that would get James criticized had House missed the shot. But the play was right. Pass up a good look for a better one, trust your teammates, and win the game. James finished with 23 points and 13 assists, (4 turnovers, 4 steals, 3 blocks), the kind of all-around game that showcases his strengths, but didn’t take the dagger. And that’s pretty much his career.
For the Thunder, you have to look at their sloppy performance down the stretch. Their success was built into a catch-and-shoot three for Durant, which is rare. Too often they turn to ISO-sets for Durant, which rarely work out well, as was the case on their final halfcourt possession, a missed baseline contested jumper for Durant. The Thunder gave great effort and used their transition game to press the Heat, but in situations where they needed to deliver, they couldn’t execute. Even their final possession, Russell Westbrook trying to delay the clock start on the inbound by letting it roll with the Thunder out of timeouts, resulted in a turnover.
The Thunder’s problems were pretty evident, illustrated by the strength of the Heat, which is perimeter penetration. There was no one to rotate inside and the Thunder defenders were too often too late. The result was a cavalcade of free throws, as James, Wade, and Bosh combined for 27 free throw attempts.
The Thunder have a formula now for how their final possessions should look, with Kevin Durant using off-ball movement to create clean looks, not trying to simply shoot over a defender. The Heat now have their formula. A strong performance from Chris Bosh outside, wing scoring on slash-and-drive from Wade, and LeBron facilitating.
Strong, strong game and good things to take away for both teams.