The Miami Heat fought through a ton of adversity Tuesday night, including leg cramps that forced LeBron James to watch the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, to take Game 4, 104-98.
The Heat now hold a commanding 3-1 edge in the NBA Finals and can clinch the championship in Game 5. Here are some observations from Game 4:
Where is James Harden?
For those who didn’t catch the postgame show on NBA TV, Charles Barkley made a really funny quip regarding Harden’s head-scratching disappearance in The Finals. Host Matt Winer asked Barkley why he was looking under the table to which Barkley replied, “I’m looking for James Harden.” With the exception of Game 2 in Oklahoma City, Harden has been MIA in this series — especially in Miami. In games 1, 3, and 4 Harden is 6-for-26 from the field and had back-to-back 2-for-10 games on the road. If the Thunder are going to extend this series, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year must find his shooting touch and regain his confidence.
LeBron emptying his gas tank
Leg cramps prevented the three-time NBA MVP from finishing Game 4, but his 3-point shot from the top of the circle (despite his leg locking up) with under two minutes to play gave the Heat the lead for good and was the biggest shot of the game. Moments later, Dwyane Wade made it a five-point game. You can say all you want about LeBron not performing well in the crunch time, but his effort and energy throughout the series has been nothing short of superb. He is scoring on drives, setting up teammates with the pass, rebounding, and defending Kevin Durant. How many players are able to do that? James has been the undisputed MVP of the 2012 NBA Finals and — if he wins that elusive ring — he deserves all the credit in the world because he is leaving everything he’s got on the floor.
Wild, wild Westbrook
Russell Westbrook had a superb game to say the least. He scored 43 points on 20-of-32 field goal attempts, and most of them were on the spectacular variety. Westbrook was absolutely sensational despite some miscues at the end, the biggest one was not knowing time and situation when he fouled Mario Chalmers with five seconds left on the shot clock. Thunder coach Scott Brooks said the game would not be close if not for his heroics. Those who criticize Westbrook should take a closer look at Tuesday game and see what a special talent Westbrook is.
Thunder bigs are playing small
Oklahoma City’s starting center Kendrick Perkins and power forward Serge Ibaka have been relatively useless in this series. Perkins can’t seem to find hoop and Ibaka looks like someone who is a bit overwhelmed by the mounting pressure of The Finals. Both Perkins and Ibaka are struggling offensively and have left the Heat off the hook by not punishing Miami’s “small ball.” Brooks may need to call on reserve forward Nick Collison to play more minutes because Perk and Ibaka have given him nearly nothing in this series.