The Miami Heat overcame a 33-16 first-quarter deficit, a 43-point game from Russell Westbrook and LeBron James' fourth-quarter cramps to earn a 104-98 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals. After giving up 33 points in the first quarter, the Heat held Oklahoma City scoreless for the first three and a half minutes of the second quarter and scored 13 points of their own to cut the lead to one, 33-32, with 8:30 remaining in the first half.
Miami never trailed by more than five points for the remainder of the game and regained the lead, 50-49, early in the third. There were eight lead changes in the third quarter before the Heat settled into a four-point, 79-75, lead heading into the fourth.
Four players (Mario Chalmers- 12, LeBron James- 6, Dwyane Wade- 5 and Chris Bosh- 2) scored for the Heat during the final 12 minutes of play. Russell Westbrook (17) and Kevin Durant (6) combined to score all of Oklahoma City's fourth-quarter points. When it counted most, Miami got more production from its supporting cast than the Thunder did.
The Miami Heat and their All-Star Trio are now just one win away from the franchise's second NBA championship. One win away from possibly starting the dynasty that they envisioned when Bosh and James joined Wade in South Beach. And they will have an opportunity to get that win in front of their home crowd in Game 5 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
2012 NBA Finals Schedule
Game 1: Tuesday, June 12, Miami Heat 94 at Oklahoma City Thunder 105, Thunder lead series 1-0
Game 2: Thursday, June 14, Miami Heat 100 at Oklahoma City Thunder 96, Series tied 1-1
Game 3: Sunday, June 17, Oklahoma City Thunder 85 at Miami Heat 91, Heat lead series 2-1
Game 4: Tuesday, June 19, Oklahoma City Thunder 98 at Miami Heat 104, Heat lead series 3-1
Game 5: Thursday, June 21, Oklahoma City Thunder at Miami Heat, 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 6: Sunday, June 24, Miami Heat at Oklahoma City Thunder, 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC (if necessary)
Game 7: Tuesday, June 26, Miami Heat at Oklahoma City Thunder, 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC (if necessary)
The Oklahoma City Thunder are facing elimination for the first time this postseason. If the Thunder want to extend their season and play another game in front of their home crowd, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook must get more support from their teammates.
Sixth Man of the Year James Harden was supposed to be the Oklahoma City player to provide Durant and Westbrook the complementary support the Thunder need to help offset Miami's All-Star Trio. But so far in the Finals, notwithstanding his 21-point Game 2 performance (which actually kept Oklahoma City within striking distance in that game), Harden's play has fallen well short of expectations. He is shooting an abysmal 35.1 percent from the field and an equally disappointing 28.6 percent behind the three-point arc. Except for his performance in Game 2, Harden has not provided the Thunder with the offensive firepower that they need from him in this series.
For Oklahoma City to extend this series to a sixth game, James Harden either has to step up and play better or Scott Brooks has to find someone-or a group of someones-that will get the job done. Basically, if Harden isn't going to be effective offensively, Brooks will need to go with a bigger, more defensive-minded lineup and have Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins on the floor more often to protect the rim.
Each game of the Finals has been won by the team that controlled the paint. Miami has scored more points in the paint and grabbed more rebounds than the Thunder in every game except for Game 1. Oklahoma City will have a great chance at extending this series if it can reverse that trend and win the battle in the paint in Game 5.
Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, LeBron James and the Miami Heat are just one win away from an NBA championship. To get that win, all they have to do is take advantage of playing Game 5 in front of their home crowd. However, since the NBA adopted the 2-3-2 format for the Finals back in 1985, only one team (the 2004 Detroit Pistons) has ever won the championship on their home floor by winning all three of the middle games at home. That history, along with the fact that Oklahoma City has not lost four games in a row since the 2008-2009 season, suggests that the task of winning Game 5 will be anything but simple.
Closing out the NBA Finals will be a challenge like no other Miami has faced this season. Similarly, finding a way to extend this series and avoid elimination is the first challenge of its kind for Oklahoma City. One team is moments away from a glorious triumph. The other team is moments away from disappointment and embarrassment. The team that wins this game will be the team that plays with more energy, more desperation and more urgency--the team that simply does more. The Thunder have more at stake, and they will find a way to do more and send this series back to Oklahoma City for Game 6.
Mark is a lifelong fan of the NBA who has loved the game of basketball ever since his first trip to an NBA arena. Mark has watched more basketball games than anyone can count and has hundreds of articles about the NBA published on the internet. Mark also shares his random NBA musings and game-by-game predictions on RandomNBAFan.com.
More on the 2012 NBA Finals:
Information from ESPN.com's Oklahoma City vs. Miami Heat - Recap - June 19, 2012, Oklahoma City vs. Miami Heat - Play By Play - June 19, 2012, James Harden Stats, Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 Schedule and NBA.com's Finals format another obstacle for Mavericks to overcome was used for this article.