What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
We had agonized through three consecutive losses where key moments of the game always seemed to side with the Heat. A string of what-if moments strung together systematically crushed the Thunder's hopes so that their only chance left was to try to prevent a Heat close-out game on Miami's home court. OKC had to be ready, they had to be locked in, and they had to actually play well.
Unfortunately for us all, they were none of those things. As the Heat began to exert themselves in the 2nd half, resignation began to set in. I think that for me at least it allowed for a settling of the nerves and a calming of the emotions. This was to be the Heat's night, and nobody else's. It was obvious during the final 16 minutes of play that there would be no miracles, no collapses, and no fleeting moments of optimism. This was probably a good thing, because as the Heat celebrated in the final moments, we were spared the anxiety of watching OKC crumble late in the game and instead just watched them take in the moment's pain.
What was, overall, the main reason the Thunder lost ?
The 3rd quarter was once again the Thunder's undoing.
One of the big things that the Heat were able to accomplish in this series was to stem the tide of the Thunder's bull rushes in the 3rd quarter. Throughout the playoffs the Thunder had become extremely adept at both ratcheting up their 2nd half defense while putting on intense offensive pressure, and the result was to be able to either crush the other team or come back from any deficit that lingered in the 1st half. The Heat managed to flip the script on the Thunder. Time and time again the Heat not only maintained their lead, but actually built upon it in the 3rd quarter, leaving OKC with precious little margin for error in the 4th.
In Game 5, the Thunder once again tried to attack early in the 3rd and we had a momentary glimmer of hope. Kevin Durant opened the quarter nailing a 3-pointer and Serge Ibaka followed up with 2 free throws and a dunk. The lead was 5. After Durant blocked a LeBron James drive, OKC had possession and the opportunity to cut the lead to a single possession. Tragically, just as it has happened in previous games, the Dwyane Wade did a great job chasing down Durant in the open court, stole the ball back, and reversed the possession by nailing a 3-pointer. OKC came back with a set play for Thabo Sefolosha, but once again Wade made an amazing defensive play by blocking Sefolosha's corner-3. The Heat reversed the possession again and hit another 3-pointer.
In the span of less than a minute, the Heat turned what could have been a one possession game back into a double-digit lead, and in the process killed the Thunder's last chance at making it a game. That reversal spawned a 34-15 run over the remaining 10 minutes of the quarter. The 3rd ended with Miami up by 24 and only 12 minutes away from celebration.
What is a key statistic to understanding tonight's game?
The Heat shot 14-26 from 3-point range. More specifically, Mike Miller, he of nagging injuries and a running gait that made him look like he would need a chiropractor at any moment, hit 7 of 8 3-pointers on the night on his way to 23 points.
As messed up as the Thunder defense looked in Game 5, it was still predicated on one basic tenet - the goal was to keep the ball out of LeBron and Wade's hands and make the Heat shooters beat the defense. I have to think that the Thunder went into the game thinking, "make guys like Mike Miller beat us." Well, Mike Miller beat them. I don't know if anyone could have seen that coming, but Miller played the game of his life in the biggest moment of his life, and by the end of the 3rd quarter the Thunder defense was in shambles.
What does this game mean for the Thunder today and moving forward?
There is no 'forward' at this point. Only the moment to think about what it feels like to come up short at the highest level of basketball competition.
I was deeply moved by two moments immediately after the game ended. The first was when LeBron embraced Durant at mid-court. It was very apparent at that moment that the time they had spent together during the off-season forged a bond that they wanted to share even in the midst of one man's elation and the other's heartbreak.
Say what you want about LeBron and the foibles of his career, but that was an important moment that he needed to share with Durant, because surely Durant is about to claim the heavy crown that LeBron no longer has to wear.
This scene was followed by Durant who was seeking out his mama and his dad one last time:
As a parent myself, I know what it is like to have to console your child. We always hear about the fact that Durant is only 23 and how his on-court persona belies his age. Well, KD is only 23, and this was a moment when he should be allowed to just be 23. There is nothing you as a parent can do to make the pain go away; if I could have reached through the TV screen and hugged KD myself, I would have. Unfortunately, all you can do is take it in and remember that the pain is a gift. In the words of Stephen Colbert:
"I’m not bitter about what happened to me as a child, and my mother was instrumental in keeping me from being so. She taught me is that the deliverance God offers you from pain is not no pain—it's that the pain is actually a gift."
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, 32 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook, 19 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals
Thunder Blunder: Serge Ibaka, 9 points and only 4 rebounds
Thunder Plunderer: LeBron James, 26 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Next Game: Time for the long, long summer of our discontent