The Miami Heat have an awesome opportunity to take full control of the NBA Finals tonight when they host Game 4 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. At this point of the season every game is a ‘must-win' for both teams, and while a win for the Heat puts them in the drivers seat with a 3-1 lead in the series, a loss for the Thunder puts them in that 3-1 hole, with one more game still to be played in Miami.
Sure, the next two games can both be considered swing games, but it all depends who wins tonight. Miami wins and this was the swing game, OKC wins and the next game is the swing game. Either way, this years NBA Finals looks like it will be decided (for the most part, if not completely) in South Florida. Wouldn't be the first time either as I'm sure you remember back in 2006 the Heat won all three home games to take control of that series.
For now, Miami holds a 2-1 series lead in the NBA Finals for the second straight year, but most Heat fans can notice the difference between last seasons team and the one from this year. Being in this situation last June can only help the Heat this time around, having been in this situation before and knowing full well the importance of not letting up one inch until its over.
On the other side of the court, Oklahoma City knows just as well that the series is far from over. This is a team that was down 0-2 in the Western Conference Finals to the San Antonio Spurs who had won 20 games in a row, but came back and beat them four straight. The Thunder is also aware that Miami was up 2-1 last season and blew it, so OKC has a few things to hang their hat on.
There is one very big difference in the Heat team from last year and the one playing this year, and that is LeBron James. The league MVP is well aware that he was way too passive last season against the Mavericks, but has remained dominant through the first three games of this years Finals. LeBron is averaging 30.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists through three games against the Thunder, which looks even better compared to his pedestrian 17.8 points, 7.2 rebound, 6.7 assist numbers from last season.
James is also showing that he isn't afraid of performing in big moments. He has made several big shots and clutch free throws in the 4th quarters of this years Finals, and his team has played well around him. In Game 3, Miami became the first team in this seasons playoffs to overcome a double-digit, 2nd half deficit to the Thunder. LeBron led the way with 8 points in that 4th quarter, with no OKC player scoring more then 4.
The defense late in the game is key because one thing that has impressed the crap out of me during these playoffs is how well the Thunder's stars play down the stretch of games. It's amazing how easily they score, and it all starts with Kevin Durant. When he gets going with the outside jumper and the inside game he is impossible to stop, but if Miami can somehow keep he and his co-stars under control, the Heat should be able to capitalize on the 2-1 series lead this time around.