The Thunder dropped a crucial Game 4 last night, and more than anything, the body language of the team was the most disheartening. It is not that they have given up per se, but it just seemed like they had been kicked in the gut because they once again failed to match the Heat's intensity and execution in the 4th. As great as the Thunder performed in the WCF, they are learning now, in the harshest of ways possible, that there is another level of competitiveness that a team must hit when the Finals commence.
Before this series, Harden had scored in single digits four times the entire season. In The Finals thus far, it has happened in three of the four games. He hasn’t shown up. And it’s killed OKC.
There is still a game to go, a game to save the season and give OKC one more home game. However as Mayberry notes, the team looked pretty despondent in the locker room afterward.
Yes, Doyel can be a bit of a provocateur, and yes he was trying to set up Westbrook in order to elicit a good sound bit, but even then I think Westbrook surprised even Doyel with what might be his most articulate and defiant quote of his career:
"Get this straight. What you guys say doesn't make me happy, make me sad, doesn't do anything. It's all about my team and us winning a game. I don't have a personal challenge against you [media] guys, and it's not me against the world. It's not the world against me. It's me and my teammates trying to win."
I have a feeling we'll be dissecting the post jump-ball foul that Russell Westbrook committed for quite some time. Regardless of what we think was said between the two, there was no question that Westbrook fully believed that he had to foul Mario Chalmers as soon as possible.
Here is a great breakdown of the final critical sequences of Game 4, starting with Durant's bucket that gave OKC their last lead. The sequence also includes James Harden's confidence meltdown, a shot attempt so painful to watch I can't even bear to post it here.
Westbrook's mental error in the end was costly, but James Harden's subpar play has put the Thunder in a difficult spot in 4th quarters. When a team is predicated on all 3 of its stars playing well, 3 stars playing well (or in last night's case, 1 guy playing off the charts) is not enough.
It is almost as if studio talking heads created Russell Westbrook specifically so that they would have an endless supply of talking points over which to argue.
Both Westbrook and LeBron James left us all speechless last night. Love him or hate him, LeBron's 3-point shot was probably the biggest shot of his life, given the circumstances.
Game 5 is all that matters now.
SB Nation's Heat site recaps last night's performance. They have reason to be excited at this point; all of their key players are rising to the challenge in front of them and they now have 3 chances to win the trophy.
Westbrook, like Rajon Rondo, played his best playoff game to date in these playoffs. Like Rondo, his team lost when it could not capitalize on what the superb performances offered.
Ziller is not impressed with the griping about the refereeing in the Finals.
Up next - Chris Bosh wears a Bill Cosby sweater to the post game presser.
Here is a reminder of how David Stern played a heavy hand in the Thunder's relocation from Seattle.
Who would have thought that for LeBron James to be a win away from his first title, he would actually morph into Tim Duncan?
One of the things that's amazing about Russell Westbrook is how everyone wants him to be a selfish a**hole, but he won't play along. You watch him play, you expect him to be like all the petulant combo guards he looks like on the court. Iverson, Marbury, Steve Francis, etc.
But he's not those guys--not self-destructive or cancerous or whatever other go-to slander you could have applied to Iverson or Marbury or Francis when they were driving people crazy in 2002.