by Ryan Isley
There are strange NBA Finals and then there are strange NBA Finals. The 2012 NBA Finals has to rank among one of the strangest in recent memory, if only for the rooting habits of two cities who are not even involved in the series – Cleveland and Seattle.
When Kevin Durant was drafted in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics and then had a great rookie season, people started to think of the possibility that one day Durant would be facing LeBron James in the NBA Finals. What we never expected was that when it finally happened, most of the people of Seattle would be rooting for LeBron while most Cleveland fans would be rooting for Durant.
But that is where we are. As we all know, the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder following Durant’s rookie season and then LeBron left Cleveland to chase a title in Miami with Dwyane Wade and the Heat.
So for the most part it is Cleveland and Oklahoma City vs. Seattle and Miami. And of course I am not most Cleveland fans – I have been supporting LeBron for the duration of these playoffs.
Sounded like the perfect time for me to do a running diary of game 1 – Bill Simmons style.
Here we go:
No surprise – they start with highlights from last season’s lost season for the Heat and their loss to the Mavericks in the NBA Finals. Then a cut to the trio of the Thunder – Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. No shock so far.
Oh good – another sensational night of Magic Johnson, Jon Barry, Michael Wilbon and Chris Broussard trying to act like the TNT studio group. Unfortunately for this group, none of them are funny and are rarely insightful. I actually like Wilbon and Broussard but I have zero use for Magic and Barry.
Within three minutes, they have used the term “dynamic trio” twice. Apparently there are only so many words these guys know.
Magic Johnson just said he thinks LeBron vs. Durant is going to be “Earvin Johnson vs. Larry Bird part two” and then goes on to talk about Westbrook/Harden vs. Wade/Bosh. I don’t know who is more confused – me or Magic.
Now Magic is saying that Kobe Bryant will pass the torch to either LeBron or Durant after this series. Barry jumped in and corrected him. Does Magic really think Kobe is going to pass the torch? Hell, Kobe doesn’t pass ANYTHING.
Why do we need a half hour pregame show if they are going to come back from break and then go back to break two minutes later? Just start the game at 8:30 like they did in the conference finals – that seemed to work for everyone.
Oh yippee – another terrible produced fluff piece on the pregame show. ESPN has really fallen off the table when it comes to live events. This is bad.
Predictions – Wilbon and Barry pick Thunder to win the series while Magic and Broussard take the Heat. For a company that created the “Heat Index”, ESPN has seemingly fallen off the Heat bandwagon to some extent.
And now they are showing Wade talking to the rest of the Heat before the game. This is not good television. That will end the pregame show…on to the game!
This Oklahoma City Thunder PA guy is annoying already – but nowhere near as irritating as the guy in Detroit. And another shocker – an American Idol singer doing the national anthem. Can we please just start doing a taped orchestra version for all games? Nobody would be upset with this, right?
Another thing I am tired of – these long drawn out pregame intros and videos. Just get to the starting lineups and start the damn game already.
The ESPN crew of Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen are doing the game with Doris Burke. Lucky us, huh?
Van Gundy starts by telling us that LeBron is primed for a big series and Durant is the hardest one-on-one matchup in the NBA because of his high release point at 6-foot-11. Thanks for that expert analysis. Why isn’t he coaching anywhere again? Oh yeah.
Oklahoma City wins the tip. Westbrook takes the first shot (a miss) – anyone surprised? LeBron then misses on the other end followed by yet another Westbrook miss. Westbrook is trying to piss off everyone early I see.
Shane Battier knocks down a three to start the scoring for the Heat. Congrats if you bet on him to score the first points – I am sure that number there was pretty good.
Oklahoma City is on the board as Durant makes his first attempt. See what happens when Durant gets the ball Russell?
LeBron backs down Durant and draws a foul on the league scoring champion. LeBron has to use the post more tonight if he wants to score and also to wear down Durant and make him play defense when he is guarding the MVP. LeBron responds to the foul by hitting both free throws. Nobody on Twitter mentions that LeBron makes his free throws.
Battier knocks down another three for the Heat to make it 8-2. The over/under on Battier’s points tonight was 6. He is becoming a bettor’s dream in this game.
Westbrook misses again and then Kendrick Perkins travels. OKC is 1-of-6 from the field and three of the misses are Westbrook’s. Skip Bayless can be heard throughout the entire country screaming at the top of his lungs.
Wade hits Haslem with a great pass for the dunk and the Heat lead 10-2. Looks like Wade is interested in the early part of the game tonight.
Durant is being guarded by Wade and takes a three instead of taking him to the basket. The three goes in after three bounces on the rim. Durant with another three and the Thunder are back within two at 10-8. This is how he wins scoring titles – he can flat out score.
LeBron answers with a 15-footer off glass and then after another Westbrook miss, Wade makes his first shot and it is 14-8 Miami.
At the first media timeout, Durant has all 8 of the Thunder’s points, while the Heat are led by Battier with 6. Which of these teams relies on their superstar again?
Out of the timeout, Westbrook passes to Serge Ibaka for a dunk. Who would have thought Westbrook knew how to pass?
Battier with ANOTHER three to put Miami up 17-10. Someone should probably guard him tonight. I figured it out – with the loud crowd and all of those blue shirts, Battier thinks he is back at Duke. Oklahoma City should pass out white shirts for game two just in case.
After a Durant miss, Miami answers with a Chalmers three. Miami is now 4-for-5 from deep and up 20-10.
Welcome to the game, Westbrook. The Thunder point guard finally scores on a drive to the hoop. Kendrick Perkins just turned it over and then whined to the officials. This is stuff you just can’t make up.
Battier to the bench for Miami – what is Spoelstra doing?!?!?!?! He is trying to get fired at halftime I guess.
Chris Bosh is in for Miami and Wade hits a fall-away jumper. Miami is shooting well so far and is exactly what they need to keep doing if they want to take a game in Oklahoma City.
Wade misses on a 3-on-2 and then Durant and Harden show the Heat how to run one to perfection as Durant gets the basket and the foul. He hits the free throw to finish the three-point play. The Thunder aren’t going to go quietly – especially at home.
Chalmers with another three for Miami – it’s shooting practice out there for the Heat.
Derek Fisher in for the Thunder. They have to get him in now because by the fourth quarter it will be past his bedtime at the retirement home.
Fisher hits his first shot of the game and the Thunder make it 27-20 Miami. Guess Fisher isn’t too old.
LeBron finds an open Chalmers for a jumper and Chalmers delivers again. Nobody complaining about LeBron passing the ball. Not yet anyway. Thunder get last shot of the quarter and Harden knocks down a 20-foot jumper from the top with Chalmers on him. No foul called but Harden kicked out and initiated contact.
After one quarter, it is 29-22 Heat.
Wade starts the quarter by missing a jumper off one leg. Here we go again with Wade and these off balance shots. Nick Collison with a dunk for the Thunder and the Heat lead is down to 29-24. I had no idea that Chris Mihm’s younger brother could do that.
LeBron puts his head down and drives past Haslem for the layup and he now has 6 points. He is virtually unstoppable when he decides to make that move.
Battier passes up a three, gets it back and then hits a floater. The guy just can’t miss tonight. This is what happens when you don’t guard a guy in the NBA.
LeBron takes it to Harden again, gets fouled and will head to the line. Hey look – he hit them both again. It’s a miracle. After yet another Wade off balance miss, LeBron gets a steal and a dunk. The game is too easy for the Heat when you allow them to do that. They love making highlight plays in transition.
Ibaka scores and gets fouled but misses the free throw. The Thunder need to realize they are called free throws for a reason – it’s like they don’t want the charity.
Chalmers misses a three. Wait – they actually miss those?
Westbrook with ANOTHER miss. He is now 1-for-6 on the game and is making sure he gets his shots up. This is what makes him frustrating. Battier finally misses and Fisher goes coast-to-coast for the layup. After a LeBron miss, Fisher scores again to pull the Thunder to within 9 at 39-30. He realizes this is 2012 and he is 39 years old, right?
Over-and-back call on Bosh. It looks like Miami is trying to keep the home team in the game. That will come back to haunt them if they keep it up.
Ibaka misses and LeBron takes it all the way down the floor like a freight train – easy bucket to make it 41-30 Miami.
Perkins fouled but officials rule – correctly – that he wasn’t in the shooting motion. Perkins again whines but it pays off for Oklahoma City because Harden hits three to make it 43-35.
Battier is a man on a mission with a drive and another floater. Is this a contract year?
They are telling a great story about Scott Brooks’ mom and how she told him she would only travel to see him if he made the NBA Finals because she hates to fly. Well that and she has to keep an eye on his brother Charlie Sheen.
Chalmers shows he can do more than shoot as he puts in a spin move for a layup. He now has 10 and Battier has 13. What is going on in the world??
Durant with a MONSTER DUNK by beating Joel Anthony and then dunking on Bosh. That’s 13 for Durant and a highlight we will see over and over again in the next 48 hours.
The Heat’s newest outside threat – Bosh – hits a with a three after knocking down three of them in Miami’s game seven win over Boston. He wasn’t hurt – they were just working on his shooting touch.
Westbrook passes to Ibaka for a dunk. Westbrook may not be making shots but he does have five assists so far. Rajon Rondo who? LeBron with a bank shot from just inside the three-point line. He now has 14 but he has to call those from now on.
Ibaka off the dribble and takes it to the hole for a layup 54-45. Of course Van Gundy starts talking about how to guard Durant. Thanks for paying attention tonight Jeff.
A LeBron turnover leads to a Westbrook layup and a double technical called on Westbrook and Battier. I hate the double technical call. It’s the easy way out for the officials. Make a call one way or the other or don’t blow the whistle at all. It isn’t that difficult.
Miami has last possession of the half. Bosh misses a jumper but LeBron grabs the offensive rebound. LeBron then misses a two-point jumper as time expires.
Miami leads 54-47 at halftime. I am taking a break – I don’t want to hear this studio crew during halftime. Be back when the player return to the court.
Udonis Haslem misses for Miami to start the second half and Durant opens the scoring with a three. Just like that, the Thunder trail by just four and this crowd is starting to get loud.
Wade misses and then Thabo Sefolosha “fouled” by Chalmers on layup attempt after LeBron barely missed stealing the outlet pass. Even though there wasn’t any contact, that is the second foul on Chalmers. Oklahoma City was 4-for-8 on free throws in the first half and Sefolosha keeps that up by splitting the pair.
Leading by three, Miami has an ugly possession bailed out by an Ibaka foul. LeBron takes advantage with a three and Miami extends the lead to 57-51. Battier is playing like a guy who actually knows how to play basketball. It’s a shock to all of us, I am sure.
Westbrook with the steal but Durant misses a finger roll from about seven feet out. Someone should tell him he is 6-foot-11 and it is legal to dunk. Sefolosha misses dunk after steal but Wade called for a foul. Sefolosha turns it around for the Thunder at the line, hitting both and it is only a one-point game as Miami leads 58-57.
Miami playing like they really don’t want to win this game and the Heat take a timeout with 7:44 to go in the third quarter.
Wade misses out of the timeout but gets his own board and makes a running bank shot to make it 60-57. Scott Brooks knows that Wade usually does that I assume – just not sure why his team doesn’t realize it.
Wade picks up his third foul on a drive by Durant. That could be huge if the officials start calling it tight in the fourth quarter. So far they have let them play for the most part.
As Breen says how good Durant is at the line, Durant misses the first free throw and hits the second. Oklahoma City within two but if they could hit free throws….
Wade misses a three and Durant hits Sefolosha with a nice dish for a layup. We have a tie game in Oklahoma City as it is now 60-60.
LeBron answers with a great drive and a difficult lefty shot that goes in off glass to give Miami the lead back at 62-60. After a Westbrook missed three, LeBron grabs his fifth rebound and takes it to the hole again, scoring off the glass to make it 64-60.
Wade with a great steal, gets it to Chalmers but Chalmers overthrows Wade on the return pass. Maybe Ryan Tannehill should run point for the Heat. Speaking of point guards, Westbrook looking like an actual point guard and tosses another nice pass to Perkins for a dunk. That is seven assists for Westbrook and the Thunder trail 64-62.
Westbrook with a rebound off a Wade miss and as he heads up the floor he slows up and allows Bosh to run into him. That foul on Bosh puts the Thunder at the line for the rest of the quarter. Westbrook hits both.
LeBron to Battier – another three for Shane, his fourth. Donyell Marshall never shot like this when LeBron passed to him. The Heat lead by five, 69-64.
LeBron with the drive – a dunk and a foul! The league MVP now has 23 in the game. He missed the free throw after the timeout – his first free throw miss of the game – and the Heat lead 71-66.
Westbrook with a drive all the way and finds an opening for layup. Again – he has the athleticism to beat anyone one-on-one in the league when he has his head in the game. Westbrook then fouled by Chalmers and splits two free throws. The Thunder now trail just 71-69.
Wade drives and is fouled by Harden – his fourth – but Wade misses the shot. Wade hits both free throws to push the lead back to four. Interesting to see how Harden having four fouls will play out.
Van Gundy starts telling us a story about how great it was to coach Mo Cheeks – now an assistant on the Thunder staff – and that he name his cat “Cheeks” in honor of Mo. Someone wanna tell Jeff he is missing a good game?
Durant makes two more free throws to make it 73-71 Miami with 1:09 left in the quarter. Miami needs to respond or they may find themselves battling uphill soon. Westbrook splits the defense, takes it to the rack and hits layup plus gets fouled. He hits the free throw and Oklahoma City leads for the first time in the game, 74-73 with 16 seconds left.
Bosh misses terrible shot at quarter buzzer and Thunder lead by one after three quarters. What a turnaround. Miami is on their heels and the Thunder are taking it to them.
Durant follows a Westbrook miss a minute into the fourth quarter to give Oklahoma City their biggest lead at 76-73. Miami looks out of sorts and this game could be out of hand very quick.
Wade misses a three and then Durant misses a long two but Oklahoma City gets the offensive rebound and Fisher finds Sefolosha for an easy bucket. It’s 78-73 Thunder and Spoelstra needs a timeout. He also needs to update his resume.
Bosh hits one of two from the line to cut it to a six-point game but Durant has Wade on him and hits a one-handed shot from 13 feet. Those possessions are too easy for Oklahoma City. Wade takes it to the hole and makes the layup on Collison and draws the foul. Could have been a block or a charge – Miami got the call this time. Wade hits the free throw and it is 80-77 Oklahoma City.
After a TERRIBLE three point attempt by Durant in the corner, Miami has a chance to cut it to one or tie it but Bosh drops LeBron’s pass in the paint and Oklahoma City gets a run out for a thunderous Durant dunk.
Chalmers and Westbrook trade baskets and then LeBron makes another tough turnaround shot on Sefolosha and gets the foul as well. LeBron misses another free throw though and Oklahoma City still leads by three. The 25 points ties LeBron’s career high for a game in the NBA Finals.
Collison tips rebound out to the top and the extra possession for Oklahoma City turns into a Durant three. Oklahoma City is killing Miami with hustle.
Bosh and Durant trade baskets and then Durant hits another to make it 91-83 and he has 13 points in the fourth quarter. The scoring champion is putting on a show. That’s bad news for Miami.
LeBron misses a three and after Westbrook misses a three, Miami misses on two chances as Bosh and LeBron come up empty and that is going to be the ballgame the way Miami is playing.
Westbrook and Wade both hit jumpers before LeBron take Sefolosha into the post and draws a foul with 2:44 left. LeBron makes bith free throws, giving him a new career high of 27 points in an NBA Finals game but the Heat still trail 93-87.
Durant hits two free throws as the crowd chants “M-V-P”. Wade hits a runner, Westbrook hits yet another pull up jumper and then LeBron does LeBron things again. He drives hard to the basket, flips it off glass all while being fouled. LeBron hits the free throw to bring the Heat back within five at 97-92.
Just when you think Miami has a chance, Durant finds Collison for a dunk with 1:17 left to make it 99-92. After LeBron hits Bosh and he misses a three, this one has been determined. The worst thing for Miami might be Bosh hitting those threes against Boston – now all he wants to do is shoot from outside.
A couple more Miami buckets and a few Oklahoma City free throws seal the deal and Oklahoma City wins 105-94.
Durant put on a great display in the game, scoring 36 points with 17 of those in the fourth quarter. He shot 12-for-20 from the field and made 8-of-9 from the free throw line. The guy known for scoring also grabbed eight rebounds. Westbrook chipped in 27 on 10-for-24 shooting. The Thunder did this in game one with Harden scoring just five points – a stat that should worry Miami.
LeBron did his job, scoring 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting and hit 7-of-9 from the charity stripe. LeBron added nine rebounds and four assists. Wade was 7-for-19 from the field and scored just 19 points. The problem for Miami is that they know they will not get the same performance night in and night out from Battier that they got tonight. Battier scored 17 points for the Heat in game one.
Durant got the best of LeBron in the fourth quarter of game one – outscoring the MVP 17 to 7. Wade also had 7 in the fourth quarter. Durant and Westbrook outscored LeBron and Wade 23-14 in the fourth quarter. That was a big difference in this game. Wade and LeBron will both have to be better and more aggressive for all 48 minutes if the Heat are going to win the first of their rings they proclaimed they would win.
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