The Miami Heat overcame a phenomenal game from Russell Westbrook to push the Thunder towards elimination with a 104-98 victory in Game four. Historically, no team has ever come back from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit, which OKC is hoping to be the first. Despite an incredible game from their All-Star point guard, OKC couldn’t maintain the same intensity that gave them a nearly 20-point lead in the first quarter. Russ West poured in 43 points on 20-32 from the field, along with 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Usually criticized for shooting too much, the Thunder’s floor general couldn’t be stopped. Westbrook attacked the basket relentlessly, as he did all he could to ensure his team left game four with a tied series. Unfortunately only Kevin Durant got the memo, as he dropped 28 points, but was the only other member of Oklahoma City to score in double figures.
The usual spark expected from the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, fizzled out with a 2-10 shooting performance, which resulted in only eight points. The shooting woes have continued to plague Harden, as he’s only managed to exceed nine points once in the series (21 in game two), while shooting a dismal 35% from the floor. The Beard averaged 17 points per game during the regular season and is liable to drop 30 to 40 points at any time. If Oklahoma City is going to defy the odds of history, they’ll need Harden to be that third scoring threat in Game 5.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, we find the Miami Heat on the brink of fulfilling their championship destiny. Led by the man that’s been lambasted by critics for his poor play in crucial moments, LeBron James has played like a man possessed throughout the series. The reigning MVP notched another near triple-double with 26 points, 12 assists and 9 rebounds, while Dwyane Wade complimented his good friend with 25 points and added 2 blocks along with it. After the two franchise players, Chris Bosh would normally provide the third punch for the Heatles. However, game four belonged to Mario Chalmers, who poured in 25 points and was a perfect 6-6 inside the 3-point line. The former Kansas Jayhawk is always good for a game like this every once-in-a-while, and with his point guard counterpart playing in an unconscious state of mind, Chalmers had to step up.
With a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, the entire Heat franchise has managed to step up their play and completely erase any of the memories of their 2011 championship series versus Dallas. This elite team was assembled in the summer of 2010 for the sole purpose of bringing championship glory back to South Beach. Thursday’s game could end in a tremendous eruption of fan support, and a deafening silence among those who opposed.
Steve Rivers has contributed to The Source, ESPN Rise and a host of other online publications. Follow him on Twitter: @TheKidSkoob.