Well, that was rather anti-climatic. After a highly anticipated lead up, the Finals seemed to come to an abrupt end. The Miami Heat are champions. I will probably write more about the Heat and the Thunder later this summer, but I want to mention the main thing that struck me in this Finals: it was a hell of a lot closer than the 4-1 series margin would indicate.
Honestly, from an objective standpoint, I have a hard time saying that the Heat were any better than the Thunder this year. Just like I have a hard time saying the Thunder were any better than the Spurs. The truth is all three of those teams were very good, and at the end of the day it just so happened that the tables tilted in Miami's favor.
This is to take nothing away from Miami - they played their best basketball this season when it mattered most. They fully deserve to be 2012 champs. But it is worth mentioning the relative parity of the top three teams in 2011-12, because I can already sense the revisionist history being written - something along the lines of "The LeBron James Redemption Song," and that Miami was destined to win the title this year. They weren't. Let's not be fooled.
Two incidents in these Finals stood out in making this series potentially shorter than it should have been. The first is the much discussed third quarter benching of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Game 3. Scott Brooks chose a bad time to sit his best two players, and the momentum swing with both of them on the bench may have cost OKC that game.
A more egregious shift in the series occurred in Game 4. And unfortunately it involved the officiating. I am not someone who constantly knocks the officials, but they did a lousy job in Game 4, and it swung the game and series right into Miami's hands. I'm surprised analysts were not more critical of the refs immediately following that game.
When a star plays as well as Westbrook did in Game 4, and his team loses, something is usually up. Either Westbrook's teammates didn't play well, or they got hurt by the officials. In Game 4, the latter was the case. Watching that game you cannot tell me Westbrook only deserved to go to the line three times. And you cannot tell me OKC as a whole deserved to shoot only 16 free throws when they were that aggressive offensively. After LeBron hit that all ready famous three pointer to put Miami up 97-94, Durant came down for a mid-range pullup and was stripped by Dwyane Wade. There is a chance it was a clean steal, but judging by Durant's immediate reaction of violently screaming at the officials I doubt it. That play typified the entire night.
I'm not being biased here - OKC got poor treatment by the officials in Game 4, and it obviously changed the complexion of the series. You can talk about the Thunder being young, but they played well in every game but the finale. They probably deserved in the very least a longer series than what they got. However, when all is said and done, Miami stayed composed and came up bigger when it counted. That is what people will talk about, and that is why they are the champs.