You could have crammed an entire postseason’s worth of story lines into last night’s Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Which would be a big help to us, because Miami’s 104-98 win over OKC was so incredible and intense that we almost forgot all about the other stories from these playoffs that led up to it … As usual, it starts with LeBron. His 26-point, 12-assist, 9-rebound performance featured some passes borrowed from Magic and some buckets borrowed from Kobe, but then it really got interesting after LeBron went down late in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be leg cramps (or a busted hip, or a thigh bruise, depending on who you ask). LeBron got back up and limped through a crucial sequence in which he hit a humongous three-pointer during a 7-0 Heat run, but then left with a minute to go and never returned. So does this go down as The Cramp Game, one of LeBron’s career highlight-film classics? Or does it just give his haters another reason to bash him for not staying on the floor during perhaps the most important minute of Miami’s season? You can book it that we’ll see a few Willis Reed/Michael Jordan clips — as well as some LaDainian Tomlinson/Jay Cutler clips — between now and Game 5 … Then there was Russell Westbrook. Facing the familiar criticism after Game 3 that he shoots too much and doesn’t pass enough to Kendrick Perkins or whoever he’s supposed to be passing to, Westbrook spent Game 4 in full kiss-my-ass mode. He dropped 43 points (20-32 FG) to go with seven boards and five assists, and he was the main reason the Thunder were even able to keep it close during the fourth quarter after blowing a 17-point lead earlier in the game … Remember how Dwyane Wade ate up the Mavs in ’06 by just attacking and attacking? That was Westbrook. With Wade guarding him most of the time, Westbrook drove the lane and finished from all kinds of tough angles and while absorbing contact, scoring 13 straight in the fourth quarter while answering almost every potential Miami dagger by himself. But just like LeBron, Russ still left himself vulnerable for the critics thanks to one backbreaking turnover in the end and one ill-advised foul that put Mario Chalmers on the line to effectively ice the game … Oh yeah, Chalmers. He played the game of his life, scoring 19 of his 25 points in the second half and hitting clutch shot after clutch shot in the fourth quarter. OKC coach Scott Brooks decided to have Kevin Durant guard Chalmers down the stretch since KD was in foul trouble, and Chalmers said afterward that he saw it as a sign of disrespect. Chalmers was also playing a game-within-a-game against his backup PG Norris Cole, who was key during Miami’s 16-0 run to start the second quarter. Those two are in a constant battle that’s like the NBA version of two NFL strong safeties vying for the same job. Enteraining and vicious as hell, but too few people are paying attention because it isn’t a QB controversy … A couple of our favorite Cole tweets from last night: “Norris Cole looks like a lost member of Three Times Dope” (@MrMichaelLee) and “Norris out here looking like Waldo, tell Eddie Winslow to post up + Steve Urkel to run to the corner” (@yomike) … Hit the jump to read a radical suggestion for James Harden.
Smack / Jun 20, 2012 / 4:32 am
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