By now you've read all the reaction to Miami's Big Move past the Boston Celtics. You've thought about what it means for LeBron James to finally beat the C's, for the first time in his postseason career. You've likely remarked upon how far the Heat have come since Dwyane Wade and company (read: Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony) were squashed by these same Celtics about 12 months and two weeks ago. You've considered how much it meant for Miami to top the team it seemed so helpless against before April.
Think about the accomplishment, relative to what we've seen in the past. That's important. Also, if you will, think about in-game accomplishment, here. Miami, based almost solely on individual gifts, is putting teams away mainly by relying on the brilliance of (and can we stop the nonsense about Derrick Rose for a second?) the two best players in the NBA. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are taking turns, in some sort of adult-styled AAU brand of ball (that's not a shot), and they've destroyed two very good basketball teams during this postseason in the process.
Dwyane Wade was brilliant throughout, you saw that. He averaged over 30 points, and just under seven rebounds and five assists per game in this series while shooting a great percentage and contributing two steals per game. This comes after a regular season that saw him make less than 30 percent of his shots against Boston, while hitting for 12.8 points per game. This comes after a fluke four games, splayed out between October and April. This comes after a sample size we shouldn't have paid attention to; even while giving the matchup credibility.
And James? Especially on Wednesday? He was fantastic. Actually, his fantastic parts were terrible -- those three-pointers to close it out? Those weren't good shots. And yet they all went in, for a player who shot his career average (33 percent, below the league average of 36 percent) during the regular season.
James spent the first three quarters of this game taking great shots that didn't go in. You remember that feeling you had during halftime, or the third quarter? The one that had you wondering just how Boston was up by five or six points, or whatever it was during the pause you took to wonder to yourself? It was probably because LeBron James was getting to the hoop consistently on those big bad Celtics, only to see his scoops and runners go in and out. Kenny Smith brought up his early "bad shots" following the game, only pointing to one long three-pointer he had to take as the shot clock ran out, but Smith was just analyzing off highlights. James was working it, even if the results weren't working.
In the second half he took bad shots, and somehow things evened out. And those 10 points to finish the game will lead every highlight reel. What people won't talk about as much was the way LeBron allowed his team to not really be all that scared of Paul Pierce anymore. The Truth dropped 27 twice in Boston during this series, and his 19.6 points per game on 45 percent shooting was pretty fantastic, considering the postseason circumstances and his Miami combatant. But James had him, easy. And I promise you that I wrote this paragraph without even considering (read: remembering) the terrible last-second possession the Pierce-led C's came through with on Monday.
And against the Celtics, that team that roughed them up for three close wins before Miami broke through in the last week of the regular season. Against the team that meant the most to Miami. Observers, both paid and otherwise, would have probably put a bigger symbolic price on the Heat downing the Lakers in the Finals, but Miami was going to do that anyway -- LeBron has had Los Angeles' number for two years now.
No, Miami wanted Boston, which is why I allow them their over the top reaction to this win. Downing Derrick Rose or Josh Smith and/or Dirk Nowitzki or Kevin Durant won't have the same feel to it. How could it? Boston was the baddest thing on the block, even if they hadn't won a championship since John McCain was a viable Presidential candidate.
(Based on polling numbers.)
Scariest of all, Miami did it by merely refining the Your Turn/My Turn playbook they introduced us to last October, against these same Celtics. There were unforced Boston turnovers along the way -- Jeff Green, Delonte West, and Paul Pierce are all at fault -- but Miami would have been up double-figures anyway had the good shots gone during the first half. And they ended up winning in dominant fashion, down the stretch, as those supposed closers from Boston watched (and the Lakers watched from home, with nothing to do tomorrow).
That's significant. And a bit scary. This team just dropped nearly 113 points per 100 possessions against the Boston bloody Celtics, and everyone besides Wade and James combined to shoot 8-30, 26.7 percent. They won that way.
This is where we turn to hide, NBA fans. They're after us. And they're taking turns. Better learn to love it.
Oklahoma City 99, Memphis 72; Oklahoma City leads the series, 3-2
To me, this can't all be pinned on dead legs. Entering this series, we had no idea how Memphis would score enough to keep up with the Thunder. Even considering Kevin Durant's uneasiness with playoff contact and Zach Randolph's brilliance in the post, Memphis' ability to put points on the board was a legitimate fear, even on three or four days' rest.
48 hours after initiating a triple-overtime thriller, and playing on the road? Memphis had no chance. We gave them a slight chance heading into this game, but we were foolish to do so.
Because the obvious narrative took over. Oklahoma City was energized by its fans. Memphis missed tough (if still close) shot after shot in the second quarter, and did the same in the third as Oklahoma City eventually pulled away. And you can point to the Thunder's bench as a factor all you want, I have great respect for everyone on it (even you, little guy), but that stuff is a given to me. Memphis can't score, and they have limited depth. Darrell Arthur and his bum thumb won't even look at the basket these days. This shouldn't be a surprise.
This shouldn't go out in six, either. Apologies for glossing over Oklahoma City's impressive turn and spinning forward, here, but the Grizzlies are going to put themselves in a position to win on Friday. They'll get stops, they'll get into the lane (either either a drive, pass, or shot from a big), and they'll cause turnovers. It's up to them from there. Not signing off on a Memphis win, mind you, I'm just telling you that they'll have their chances. It's up to Tony Allen to finish properly in transition, Mike Conley to make the right pass to the corner, and Zach Randolph to hit that spinner.
It's up to Oklahoma City to weather that storm, which is a tough gig for a bunch of kids.
When you think about what position Russell Westbrook was playing three years ago, what coach Kevin Durant was playing under a year and a half ago, and whether or not you'd heard of Serge Ibaka two years ago, the task becomes all the more daunting. But it's in the Thunder. They have the talent, the interest (believe me, bitching to assistant coaches during a game is a good thing), and the depth. Daequan Cook can shoot. Nazr Mohammed can screen, catch, and finish. Nick Collison's moving feet can enervate. Durant and Westbrook can put you away.
Friday's going to be fun.
- Dwyane Wade
- LeBron James
- Boston Celtics