When Russell Westbrook fouled Mario Chamlers with a little under one minute to go, I just stood there, and my mouth dropped wide open. I was shell-shocked. Totally speechless. How could he do that? I felt so bad for Russell at the moment. The guy had 43 points, 5 assists, and 7 rebounds. He was outstanding. Russell shut all the critics up with his terrific play. However, some will look back on tonight, and blame Game 4 of the NBA finals on Russell Westbrook. They’ll also be wrong.
Here’s how it happened. The Thunder jumped out to a 13 – 3 lead to start the game. They played with defensive intensity, they ran the break to perfection and they forced the Heat to take bad shots. Westbrook came out of the gate roaring, hitting jumper after jumper. However, after Ibaka found himself out of the game with foul trouble, we didn’t see much of that line-up in the game again. Kendrick Perkins comments via Slam Online: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Durant and Westbrook’s collective effort still helped the Thunder jump out to a 33-16 lead, right before the most unlikely candidate to spark the game for the Heat, Norris Cole, hit a three to cut the Heat’s deficit to 14 going into the second quarter. He finished the game with eight points, five of them coming in the second quarter. Lebron and Wade put up a steady effort to cut the deficit until a Dwyane Wade three finally tied the game up for Miami. Speaking of Dwyane Wade and steady efforts, he had his first completely consistent game of the playoffs, finishing with 25 points and 5 rebounds. That’s where the Thunder started to lose confidence and if not for the heroics of one Russell Westbrook, that’s where the game would have probably ended.
Miami and Oklahoma traded leads for the majority of the third quarter and when the Heat went on a mini-run to give themselves a five point lead, the Thunder did all they could to make up the difference but they couldn’t manage to get any stops. Wade scored ten of his 25 in the third while his Oklahoma City counterpart, James Harden, couldn’t seem to hit a shot all game. Despite all of this, the Thunder went in to the locker room after the third trailing by only four points.
Durant hit a jumper right out of the gate and everyone was thinking, “alright, it’d KD time.” No, my friends… it was Russell Westbrook time. Russell scored seventeen points in the fourth quarter and his 20 field goal makes were the most by any NBA player since Luis Scola did it in the March of 2010. Fuelled by him and KD, the Thunder cut the deficit to three but the unnecessary intentional foul on Chalmers by Russell is what put the game out of reach for Oklahoma. Lebron James had a great game, finishing with 26 points, 12 assists and 9 rebounds. Although he had to sit out the last few possessions with leg cramps, he hit a vital three in the waning minutes of the game. Check out @hoopstradamus for updates on his condition.
The difference? Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were the only Thunder players to score in the fourth quarter, while clutch shots from Mario Chalmers helped the Heat pull away. Going in to the series, the Thunder were supposed to have the edge on the bench. That wasn’t the case tonight. Chalmers, Battier, Jones, Haslem and Cole combined for 40 points. The Thunder are in a big hole now, down 3-1 and it is going to be difficult to get out of it. Game 5 is Thursday and Eli Friedman will be in the building with the Thunder season on the line.
Final Score: Heat 104 – Thunder 98