The NBA’s dream match-up ends more like a nightmare for Oklahoma City, as the Miami Heat cruise to the NBA Title with a 121-106 win in Game Five. The 15-point win for the Heat put a stamp on a game that had basically ended in the third quarter. LeBron James & company seemed to rip the heart from OKC after jumping to a 20-point lead that was never relinquished.
The usual suspects LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh played big as the Heat fulfilled a championship promise that was made in the summer of 2010. James notched a triple-double for his final stanza of 2012 with 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, en route to his first NBA Finals MVP Award. The 2006 Finals MVP Dwyane Wade contributed 20 points and 8 rebounds, while Bosh came through with 24 points and 7 boards. While the “Heatles” turned in a typical outstanding performance, the story of the game came from the man who was signed to be the fourth member of the Heatles, Mike Miller. The former NBA Rookie of the Year poured in 23 points on 7-8 from three-point territory. Miller’s been plagued by injury throughout most of this tenure in South Beach, but managed to pull it all together for what may have been his final game in the NBA. The former Florida Gator was one of six Heat players to tally double digits in scoring, which resulted in the franchise’s first championship trophy for head coach Erik Spoelstra.
Miami’s 41-year-old head coach was able to out-duel former NBA Coach of the Year Scott Brooks 4-1 in a series which will possibly be repeated over the next several years. The Thunder’s four core players are all 23 or younger (Durant 23, Westbrook 23, Harden 22, Ibaka 22), which means they’re very likely to own the Western Conference for quite some time. Unfortunately for the quartet, they were unable to make their first trip to the NBA Finals a successful one, after manhandling their way through the West.
Although Russell Westbrook put on a monstrous performance in game four, he was unable to find his shooting touch in Thursday’s contest. The All-Star point guard only managed to hit 4-20 from the field en route to 19 points, with 11 coming from the free-throw line. The Durantula made sure to leave his heart on the court as he tallied a double-double of 32 points & 11 rebounds, hitting a blistering 13 of 24 shots. However, the NBA’s Scoring champion accounted for seven of his team’s 13 turnovers, which led to 29 Miami points. The bright side to OKC’s performance was the resurgence of James Harden, who hit 5-11 from the field en route to 19 points. The NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year had been in an awful shooting slump throughout the series, but was able to put it together when his team needed him most.
While Harden’s contribution may be looked at as a “too little, too late” type of situation, it’s only a preview of what’s to come for this very young franchise. The Thunder has managed to improve each season under Scott Brooks and is poised to make the NBA Finals on a regular basis. The late season addition of Derek Fisher allowed another player with championship experience (Kendrick Perkins) to guide the young talent of Oklahoma City. If Fisher decides to stay with OKC for an entire season, he’ll undoubtedly aid the growth of Russell Westbrook, who continues to grow as an NBA point guard. Having not played the position until he became a pro, Russ West is a work in progress in that role and will surely continue to improve. Along with the growth of their floor general, Serge Ibaka’s development will also be a major factor in how far the Thunder can go. Ibaka will have to become more consistent on the offensive end if OKC intends to defend their Western Conference crown next season.
As for the Eastern Conference champs, this year’s NBA trophy allows the franchise to breathe a little easier. After a disappointing end to 2011’s campaign, the Heat came into this year’s lockout shortened season with one goal in mind; Championship or nothing! Although he came under fire for claiming that another ring-less season wouldn’t be a failure, LeBron James’ attitude seemed to change once Miami was on the brink of elimination against the Celtics. The NBA MVP answered the call as a leader and played like a true champion until the season closed with Miami standing as the championship victor.
While many fans would have liked to see a full seven games, the series fulfilled everyone’s expectations of excitement and all-around great basketball. The Heat and Thunder left no doubt that they’re the two best teams in the league, as each game was very hard fought. The series saw the NBA’s MVP and Scoring champion collide in what should be the first of several Finals match-ups between the two organizations. But before we can look forward to next season, we’ll likely see many of these athletes as teammates in this year’s Olympic Games as members of the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team.
After James and Durant unite to defend the gold, they’ll be right back to competing for some, in the form of the 2013 Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Steve Rivers has contributed to The Source, ESPN Rise and a host of other online publications. Follow him on Twitter: @TheKidSkoob.