The Philadelphia 76ers played 13 out of 14 potential games in the NBA playoffs, with the Boston Celtics playing 20 out of a possible 21. Sixers fans like myself endured a rather long and often painful rollercoaster ride in the postseason, to say nothing of the Celtics - but it yielded long and thrilling battles for the rest of the country.
As such, the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder should have been another long, classic battle. However, the Sixers-Celtics and Celtics-Heat series set a seven game bar that the actual finals couldn't match. Of course, those series were often quite ugly while Miami and Oklahoma City were more high octane - which makes it more depressing that they only got to play five games.
The Heat closed out the NBA Finals in just Game 5 on June 21, as they won the only blowout of the series with a 121-106 clincher. After four straight thrillers together, Miami and Oklahoma City met an anticlimactic end as Game 5 turned into one long Heat coronation. It might have been anticlimactic regardless of the margin of victory for Miami, given that this should not have gone only five games.
This was expected to be a six or seven game classic final when it started. Given how the first four games went, there's no doubt this would have been one of the most memorable finals in years if it went longer. But because the Heat pulled out all of the close games and the Thunder failed in the clutch, this went from a nail-biting series to something much more lopsided in the blink of an eye. As such, a blowout win for Miami in Game 5 made a lot of sense.
This was the ultimate "what-if" final for the Thunder and much of the viewing public. What if Kevin Durant got to shoot tying free throws at the end of Game 2 - and what if the Thunder could have held double digit leads in Game 3 and Game 4? If they did, maybe the NBA Finals would have been over by now anyway, only in favor of Oklahoma City. Or maybe they would have gone back to Oklahoma City for the thrilling, classic finish that this series and this lockout-plagued season needed.
Instead, the blown opportunities finally took their toll for the Thunder in Game 5. Even this game was a lost opportunity, as Miami got a back breaking second quarter run after Russell Westbrook missed a tying dunk. Then the Heat clinched the title with another huge third quarter run, after Durant turned the ball over when the Thunder could have closed the lead to three points.
For one last time, all of the breaks went against Oklahoma City and sent it out earlier than it should have been, which was the story of these NBA Finals. Both the Thunder and the viewing public expected a much longer and much tougher battle, but were ultimately let down.
The series had everything else otherwise, from thrilling finishes to overdue coronations - yet the only thing it missed was actual suspense at the very end. For that, we have the Sixers-Celtics and Celtics-Heat showdowns to remember from this postseason, although the NBA Finals should have easily surpassed those clashes - and would have with just one extra game or two.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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