Tonight is a pivotal game 5 in the 2012 NBA finals. The Miami Heat stand on the brink of their second title, Lebron stands on the brink of his first title and probably a finals MVP award. Kevin Durant stands on the brink of becoming the new Lebron (the “he’s good, but he doesn’t have a title…” argument). Here is my list of what I think the Miami Heat need to do to avoid going back to Oklahoma City for game 6 and perhaps game 7 (let’s not forget that they won the 2006 title in Dallas).
1: Put Lebron in the post.
2: that’s it.
Lebron came out at the end of game 4 with what has been described as leg cramps. Watching him loosely jog after getting up (before the long outlet which got him that bank shot over Westbrook) and limp around the court when he came back on would suggest that this was indeed what had happened. Scoring a clutch three on guts alone was HUGE. However, air balling the next three that he took told Erik Spoelstra that he had to take Lebron out of the game.
I’m sure many of us have had leg cramps. Some perhaps even during a game or training session (anyone who’s been through the Darren O’Neill pre-season will definitely know about this). It hurts but it’s rare that you end up unable to walk the following day, or even unable to play basketball a couple of days afterwards. However, those of us who might have suffered cramps at the end of running a marathon might argue otherwise. Lebron has been sensational all season long. I can’t even come up with a word to top “sensational” to describe him in the playoffs. But the chances are that he’s very close to running on fumes by this stage.
He has been guarding the only other legitimate contender for the title of “best player in the league” for the past couple of games and has effectively taken Durant out of the equation. It took an all-time great finals performance from Russell Westbrook to keep OKC in game 4 because Lebron had made Durant less of a factor. His intense defense has tired Durant out by the time the fourth quarter rolls around.
But he’s clearly not 100%. Neither is Dwyane Wade. Neither is Chris Bosh, although his fitness is improving whilst the others is declining.
Therefore, if Lebron is not completely fit, especially if he is lacking the athletic explosiveness which has defined his play throughout his career, the logical place for him to take up offensive position is in the post. Nobody in the entire world can guard Lebron in the post. He’s either too strong or too quick (and at full fitness he would be both too strong AND too quick for most) for every possible defender, particularly those on the OKC roster.
His inside the paint/outside the paint field goal percentage isn’t even close. The “jab step, jab step, jump shot” offense which still creeps into his game would cost Miami tonight.
Commentators argue that Oklahoma City doesn’t understand that they are “beaten”. Of course its possible that they could win three in a row for what would be an all time great comeback. It’s just that, in each of their losses, they have looked inexperienced. Durant, while I’ll grant that he doesn’t get superstar calls, is picking up silly fouls. Westbrook isn’t a pure point guard and can’t get Durant the ball early enough in the offense BEFORE Lebron pushed him out of position. Harden has stunk. Perkins is a liability in this series with his slow defense and non-existent offensive game. Ibaka is being dragged away from the basket by Bosh’s jump shooting ability. Sefalosha isn’t really an offensive factor. Derek Fisher is not going to give them enough to compensate for all of these other deficiencies.
OKC will of course have other opportunities. The squad they have COULD end up contending for NBA titles for the next decade. Of course that won’t happen because at least two out of Ibaka, Harden and Sefalosha will have had their heads turned and demand more money than they are realistically worth. Ibaka in particular will have a short shelf life as his game is the most sensitive to injury, given his athleticism.
Sorry Lebron haters.