There were moments tonight when I thought the Thunder might be expecting to be shot at dawn: tentativeness reared its ugly head through much of the second quarter, and worse, the last four minutes of the fourth. Considering OKC had a 17-point lead late in the first — but never mind. We won’t go there. With 13 seconds left, Russell Westbrook, who had been sporadically brilliant this evening, inexplicably fouled Mario Chalmers as the shot clock wound down, and Super Mario sank both of those plus one more on the next possession to put it out of reach. It was Miami 104, Oklahoma City 98, and the Heat are one away from putting it away entirely.
Chalmers did more damage in that last frame, in fact, than did LeBron James, who had a team-high 26 but departed a couple minutes early, apparently suffering from a bad cramp. Mario, who rolled up 13 points in the fourth, finished with 25, same as Dwyane Wade. But let us not minimize King James’ contributions: he hauled in nine rebounds, tied with Chris Bosh, and served up 12 assists, one fewer than the entire Thunder team.
Westbrook, I think, was wanting to prove something to his detractors: he put up 32 of OKC’s 82 shots, and made twenty of them. Forty-three points. (Kevin Durant went 9-19 for 28.) But James Harden is still struggling: he was 2-10 from the floor — 1-5 for two, 1-5 for three — although he did bring down 10 rebounds, more than anyone else. Still, the Heat had the rebounding edge (40-35), and perhaps more important, they had the intangibles edge: even when trailing by 14 after the first quarter, they were purposeful and focused. And in a matter of not very many minutes, they weren’t trailing at all.
So it’s down to Thursday night. And you know, if you’re gonna lose, you might as well do it on the road: you hate to disappoint the hometown fans. At least, you’re supposed to hate to.