Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

Ball Don't Lie

Behind the Box Score, where the Miami Heat are one win away from a title

View photo


Dwyane Wade knows how many his team needs left to win it all (Getty Images)

Miami Heat 104, Oklahoma City Thunder 98 (Miami leads series, 3-1)

Of course Russell Westbrook drops 43 brilliant points in Oklahoma City's Game 4 loss, keeping his team from getting blown out by double-digits along the way. And of course Westbrook — or some combination of Westbrook and the either silent or unlistened-to Thunder coaching staff — put the game away for Miami by intentionally fouling Mario Chalmers with 14 seconds left in the contest and just five seconds on the Heat shot clock. Of course LeBron James develops a debilitating leg cramp in the fourth quarter to gut through for a massive three-pointer, and of course he had to sit the last minute with that leg cramp or else the Heat would have been playing four on five. Of course, the Thunder played four on five for a good chunk of the game with Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha or even, surprisingly, James Harden out there.

What isn't an "of course" is the way Miami is now up three games to one in this series. A decidedly one-sided three-game winning streak in a series that most saw as a back and forth affair that would result in teams trading off win after win. Of course, we said before the series we wouldn't be surprised if either team won in four or five very close games, because the actual numbers behind the wins wouldn't represent how close the games actually were. And, of course, after just four games and a week later, we've forgotten all about that.

[Related: Injured LeBron James hits big shot to help beat Thunder in Game 4]

What matters now is the substance of Game 4. How Mario Chalmers helped put Oklahoma City away with smart drives and accurate finishes from long range. How the Heat managed to keep the Thunder off the free throw line — not because the NBA's Manhattan offices want to see a quick series win for Miami, but because the team most of you like the least in these Finals happens to be a fantastic defensive outfit. And that LeBron James started endless Heat possessions just 15-feet from the hoop while posting up, winning half the battle right there. And that the Oklahoma City Thunder, with either two or seven days left to play in their season, could pull off something special here; should they peel off the comeback.

This was Miami's win, though. The Heat started slow, playing terrible ball (despite good effort) on both ends before the ball started moving and the helpers started helping. Norris Cole came out of nowhere to score eight points in less than eight minutes. Chalmers started his movement toward a game-tilting 25 points on just 15 shots, and LeBron was masterful in picking off his teammates both in half court and transition on his way to a game-high 12 assists — as many as he combined for in the Finals' first three games.

Yes, the Thunder had their missteps defensively, but the Miami spacing was so good that even when James had to sit with those cramps late in the fourth quarter, the Heat looked dangerous just running a screen and roll with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Two All-Stars, mind you. Helped by a point man that dropped 25. The Heat made it work.

And now it's Oklahoma City's time to make it work.

You can expect all you want. That Russell Westbrook's return to earth after scoring 43 points in Game 3 will be made up for by James Harden's eventual return to All-Star level play. Harden has shot 2-10 from the floor in both Game 3 and Game 4, and though you'd like to assume that his return to his averages is in the offing, nothing is guaranteed in a one, two or even three-game sample size.

The game of inches cost OKC as well, with several of Kevin Durant's three-pointers (he missed four of five) spinning in and out, and Serge Ibaka looking to be just this close to rejecting a couple of Miami makes in the paint. The Thunder are going to cringe while watching this tape. Knowing that Westbrook's brain freeze may not have meant a lick with just a few inches to the left, or a few inches to the right. Tough night.

These things happen night by night, though. There hasn't been a legitimate blowout in this series, a rarity for NBA Finals and something you usually see even when two equally-talented giants square off in a seven game run. Unless the Thunder come out completely dispirited in Game 5, it's hard to see that blowout taking place on Thursday — and considering what we saw from Westbrook and Durant in their postgame presser, we're not expecting the Thunder to bow out quietly.

Which means we're likely due for another close one in Game 5, even if I just reminded you that we probably shouldn't be looking at any potential facet of this series as likely to happen in the future. The Thunder can take a close one. Then it's another one, in Oklahoma City. Then, potentially, another one in Oklahoma City. The trick, as we've known for years, is to take things one game at a time. But if OKC takes Game 5 …

This is how these close games go, because the notch in the belt doesn't always mean as much as you'd presume to think. This game was nearly decided on the whims of LeBron James' dehydrated and malfunctioning painful quadriceps muscles. It was nearly decided as one of the great scorers and shooters of his and any era saw his bombs spin out. Or the NBA's leading shot-blocker fail a couple of times to get his fingertips on a shot attempt. Or, sadly, on the unquestioned star of the game making a terrible decision at the worst possible time.

Close games. There could be none of them left, because these two squads may have exhausted that supply four contests into it. There could be one more of them left, as Miami pulls out its first championship with LeBron James as its leader. There could be three left. There could be two. We kind of want three.

This sort of series, with these sorts of teams involved, deserves as much. If things end on Thursday, though, in either a blowout or a nail-biter, understand that we've been given all we can ask for already, in just a week's time.

What a run. What a Finals, despite that 3-1 difference.

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Adrian Wojnarowski: Hornets will draft Anthony Davis without a workout
Pat Forde: Michael Phelps begins hunt for record medal haul at swim trials
Elite Athlete Workouts video: U.S. track star Allyson Felix's intense workout

View Comments (140)

Recommended for You

  • NFL power rankings, Week 4: 49ers right in the middle sounds about right

    I decided to put together some of my very own power rankings. Why should others get all the mockery? Who have I overvalued and undervalue through Week 3? Normally on Tuesday I put together a rundown of NFL power rankings, looking at what some sites

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    San Francisco14 - 23Arizona
    Game Recap
  • LeBron James Didn't Eat Sugar, Carbs, Or Dairy For 67 Straight Days, Lost 'A Ton Of Weight'

    @kingjames The "Skinny LeBron" photo that started it all. LeBron James shared new details of the diet that saw him lose more than 10 pounds this summer, and it sounds even more extreme than we realized. James told reporters at his Nike sneaker event in Oregon that he cut out everything except meat,…

    Business Insider
  • Denver's Brandon Marshall trolls fans who think he's Chicago's Brandon Marshall

    Many people have Brandon Marshall on their fantasy teams. Brandon Marshall was limited by an injured ankle in Monday night's game, catching only one pass for six yards. Many people took to Twitter to complain to Marshall, during the game, that he needed to get his act in gear and score them some…

    Shutdown Corner
  • Rumor Roundup (Sept. 23, 2014): Sting, Austin Aries, Cesaro and the future of the Bellas

    Speculating on the rumors surrounding pro wrestling is a favored pastime of many fans, perhaps second only to actually watching the matches. In this daily column, we take a look at the latest rumors being churned out by the pro wrestling rumor mill. None of this has been confirmed as legitimate…

    SB Nation
  • DeSean Jackson doesn't realize the Washington Redskins lost to the Eagles

    Apparently Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson did not realize his team lost to the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday. Yeah, Jackson scored, he taunted Eagles players and fans, and he got his 'revenge' on this play. Check the scoreboard, DeSean.

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Washington34 - 37Philadelphia
    Game Recap
  • View

    Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti faces the media (11 photos)

    All of the parties involved in the Ray Rice elevator-assault scandal are being called to account for their actions, or inactions, and the Baltimore Ravens, Rice's now-former team, are now in the spotlight. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti held a press conference

    Yahoo Sports
    Sun, Sep 21
    Baltimore23 - 21Cleveland
    Game Recap
  • AARP® Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford

    Over 50? Your driving experience could save you $404* on Auto Insurance.

    AdChoicesThe HartfordSponsored
  • NFL Week 4 Waiver Wire: Quarterbacks and Running Backs

    Ray offers some players to rarget on your league waiver wire this week, including Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, LeGarrette Blount and others. In Week 3, the injuries were the story behind many waiver wire selections. In Week 4, we have some players who have earned themselves a starting role,…

    SB Nation
  • Wayne Simmonds was ejected because his opponent was too slow

    Wayne Simmonds was kicked out of the third period against the Leafs on Monday night in the preseason opener. Korbinian Holzer of the Maple Leafs was really not alright with the above hit from Wayne Simmonds during the third period of the Flyers game against Toronto on Monday night. Simmonds gave…

    SB Nation
  • Williams quits Wuhan event after illness

    The American top seed was leading 6-5 after breaking Cornet's serve with a smash only for the doctor to come on court at the change over and take the 32-year-old's temperature. Williams, who was playing in her first match since winning her 18th grand slam singles title at the U.S. Williams had…

  • GIF: Brock Lesnar Curb Stomped by Seth Rollins at WWE Night of Champions 2014

    At some point or another it was decided that the finish to the Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena rematch at Night of Champions on Sept. 21, 2014, in Nashville, Tennessee would feature a run-in from Seth Rollins. It was also decided that Lesnar, vulnerable thanks to Cena spamming finishers for the last 10…

    SB Nation
  • UFC on FOX 13: Joe Riggs, somehow, set to make return against Ben Saunders on Dec. 13 despite gun shot

    How's this possible? HOW'S THIS POSSIBLE? Less than six months after a horrific near-death experience, Joe Riggs plans to return to the Octagon to fight Ben Saunders in a Welterweight showdown planned for UFC on FOX 13 from U.S. Airways Center in

    SB Nation
  • NFL: An L.A. Team Will Carry A Hefty Price Tag

    Diving inside what it would take to move an NFL franchise to Los Angeles. The time for a decision on the Los Angeles market is edging closer, and the teams considered as top candidates are holding all the cards... The sale of the Buffalo Bills for $1.4 billion lit the greed fuse, and I think NFL…

    SB Nation44 mins ago
    Sun, Sep 21
    San Diego22 - 10Buffalo
    Game Recap
  • Former CB Brian Baucham Sues USC and Lane Kiffin

    Former USC Trojans' cornerback Brian Baucham is suing the university and ex-coach Lane Kiffin, according to an Associated Press report. In the September 2012 game, Brian Baucham collapsed during the second half and was taken to the hospital by an ambulance. Baucham hadn't played in USC's previous…

    SB Nation
  • Undertaker rumors of poor health seemingly debunked by his wife, Michelle McCool

    Over the weekend, a weird rumor started making the rounds that Undertaker is in poor health or bad shape or whatever other term you want to use to signify someone is not doing well physically. The source for this was, apparently, Limp Bizkit lead singer Fred Durst, who reportedly dedicated a song…

    SB Nation
  • View

    Photos of the day - September 21, 2014 (34 photos)

    The Independence Monument is silhouetted against fireworks during City Day celebrations in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Oakland Raiders linebacker Kaluka Maiava tackles New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman in the first half of an NFL game and a boy

    Yahoo News
    Sun, Sep 21
    Oakland9 - 16New England
    Game Recap
  • Darnell Dockett has tickets for Cardinals fan getting in a brawl with 49ers fans

    Sunday was kind of a wild day at the 49ers-Cardinals game. Aside from just the loss, 49ers and Cardinals fans got into a nasty brawl in the stands. It's a really nasty fight, with quite a bit of blood on the ground as the fight wrapped up. It seemed

    SB Nation
  • NFL Week 4 Power Rankings and the Tennessee Titans

    A look at how far the Tennessee Titans have fallen in the weekly NFL power rankings. This has been a weird NFL season.  There are some really good teams at the top, but it really looks like 6 through 18 or so could be a coin flip on any given

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Tennessee7 - 33Cincinnati
    Game Recap
  • Where The Redskins Rank In...All Things Kirk

    A look at Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins gaudy passing. Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is on fire since taking over for an injured Robert Griffin III. Even though the Redskins lost a tight one, Cousins is operating the

    SB Nation
  • Man Told to Sell Lamborghini Golf Cart or Lose Wife

    RELATED: See photos of another great Lamborghini from 1999 – the Diablo GTR The 36-volt Lamborghini golf cart comes fitted with leather seats, which he confirms he will be sure to fart on as much as possible, as well an auxiliary charger, spare seat, manual, spare parts, and a headrest, which he…