When the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder take the court tonight in Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals the basketball world will be paying special attention to one player: 27-year-old LeBron Raymone James.
No one has ever measured the true tonnage of “the weight of the world,” but with a Heat victory this evening, The King’s ample shoulders will be that much lighter.
After all, in his ninth pro season, in his third trip to the finals, on his second team, with his legions of critics and detractors ready to pounce at his slightest, magnified misstep, 3X MVP LBJ might finally grab the championship ring that has eluded him up until now and silence the haters, at least temporarily.
However, the young, supremely-talented Thunder could extend this best-of-seven and get back to the friendly confines of their home court in the Sooner State, down 3-2.
After winning the opening game in OKC, the Thunder lost the last three games by 4, 6 and 6 points respectively. And they’ve been in each contest up until the final moments. A different decision here, a made shot there, a tiny adjustment in a play and OKC could easily be leading this series.
In Game 4 on Tuesday night, Thunder PG Russell Westbrook scored 43 points on 20 of 32 from the field in possibly his best game as a professional. Smothered by the Heat’s tenacious D, 3X NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant put up 28 in 46 minutes. But it wasn’t enough as Miami got 26 from James and 25 apiece from D-Wade and Mario Chalmers.
The Heat shot 10-26 from behind the 3, while OKC went 3-16 from deep. Both teams took care of the rock, as the Thunder had 11 turnovers and Miami just 9. James had to leave the game in the last couple of minutes with leg cramps and dehydration. His teammates carried him to the bench and then made some monster plays down the stretch to seal the W.
Since the NBA went to a 2-3-2 finals format in 1985, no team has ever come back to win the title after being down 3-1. But as many roundball pundits and commentators have pointed out, this Thunder roster has already broken the mold when it comes to championship-caliber formulations. Their four top players, Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka, are ages 23, 23, 22 and 22. So while they lack much of the seasoning and experience of past champs, they make up for it in talent, tenacity and on-court bravado.
Look for a classic 48 minutes tonight in South Beach as the Heat try to finish off the Thunder and claim the 2012 crown for King James.