As the pre-game warm up came to a close, the song played from the speakers in American Airlines Arena was “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. With Game 5 about to begin and a clearly focused Heat team ready to play, lots of people could feel a championship coming in the air tonight.
Especially Mike Miller.
Mike Miller. I’m talking about the sharp-shooting veteran, whose back problems barely allow him to walk, let alone play basketball, who had already announced this series would hold his final NBA game. Throughout the first four games of the series, Miller played very limited minutes and didn’t make a single three point shot- but that didn’t mean anything to him in this game.
Miller entered the game late in the first quarter, already hobbling and bent slightly to combat his painful back. He drained a three. The crowd got loud. Two possessions later, he nailed another three. Crowd went crazy. He did this five more times, the last two being consecutive long bombs to start the 4th quarter. Not often is a game put away with 11 minutes to go, but Miller’s 7th made shot suggested the game was over. The Heat had cooked the The Thunder to a crisp. For Mike Miller, he left with a bang. After a career of playing for mediocre teams and building up nagging injuries, Miller ended his time in the NBA with an unforgettable performance and a championship victory.
Miller was only part of the story, though. The entire Heat team was prepared to put away the Thunder. Both teams started with lots of intensity and Oklahoma City pushed their way to a 6-4 lead, but it was all Miami from there. Seven different Heat players scored in the 1st quarter, as they led 31-26 after 12 minutes. They didn’t slow down in the 2nd quarter, as they added another 5 points to the lead. Despite it only being halftime, the desperation was clearly in the Thunder players’ eyes, while the confident determination continued for the Heat.
Early in the second half, a Mario Chalmers 3 sparked a run for the Heat, which eventually turned into a 25 point lead. Before the 3rd quarter ended, the Thunder were getting frustrated, and began to take quick shots and constantly fouled Heat players. It’s hard to blame them for their frustration. I’d be frustrated too if my team was getting lit up by Miller, Chalmers, and Battier in addition to the Heat’s Big 3.
The way Miami played, there was really nothing the Thunder could do. They tried, but they just weren’t going to win. Kevin Durant finished with a great performance (32 points, 11 rebounds), but none of his teammates were as successful.
Miami’s swarming defense forced lots of tough shots, and unfortunately for Russell Westbrook, he was the victim of much of this. Once plays broke down, he had to force contested jumpers. And lots of plays broke down. He finished 4-20, which looks bad in the statbook but instead should be credited to the Heat’s great defense. James Harden was a little more efficient in this game, but he still had trouble. Even Mike Miller, the Heat’s defensive liability, was locking down on Harden. For those who are skeptical, it’s incredibly hard to do anything with a 6’8” NBA player guarding you like it’s his last game ever. James Harden got to experience this first-hand.
Down low, Miami gave Oklahoma City more trouble. Haslem, Bosh, and James crowded the paint and prevented the Thunder big men from getting any space to go after missed shots. On long misses, Wade came in flying from the perimeter to grab rebounds. After rebounds, the Heat were running and gunning, and it was enough to score a ridiculous 121 points. Again, the Thunder were definitely frustrated.
Oklahoma City made up some ground in the final quarter, but it amounted to little. They still lost by 15.
With the game so wide open in the end, we got to see a preview of next year’s preseason games, as guys like Royal Ivey, Lazar Hayward, and Terrel Harris showed off some scoring abilities. Like the preseason, these minutes didn’t matter, but at least these guys got to see the floor during a Finals Game.
Also during the last few minutes, we saw players on the verge of tears. One side showed sadness and frustration, while the other showed joy and relief. Once the game ended, opponents met at midcourt, LeBron gave words of encouragement to Kevin Durant, and Dwyane Wade greeted the crowd at the scorer’s table. Minutes later, LeBron addressed his feelings on winning a championship.
Said James, “It’s about damn time.”
Agreed. The MVP finally won a title. The Heat attained the goal they’d envisioned two years ago with their then-revamped lineup. Critics can quiet down and supporters can be satisfied for now. As for the Thunder, they’re young and they’ll be back. They’ll be back many times.
And here is the final “PS” note on the final game recap of the season:
This NBA title victory was so surreal in multiple ways. The focus was obviously LeBron, and he absolutely dominated opponents for the entire postseason. It’s no surprise that he controlled the game and got a triple-double, but a totally dominating Heat performance that ended in a blowout was kind of unexpected. Think about who else got their first championship.
-Mike Miller, as previously mentioned, finished as a hero in his first ever (and last) chance to win a title.
-Chris Bosh shaped himself into a true NBA big man for this season, and won his first title.
-Former superstar draft prospect Eddy Curry, who’s barely stayed in the league for the past 5 years, just won his first title.
-Juwan Howard, the last active member of Michigan’s Fab Five, an ultra-talented group that could never win the big one in college or the NBA, became the only of the 5 to win a NBA title.
-Coach Erik Spoelstra, doubted by many, managed to unify this Heat team and beat the best team in the west. He proved himself to be a decent coach, and gave further proof that Pat Riley is a genius.
This championship was about more than just LeBron James. There were many heroes for the Heat this series. After a tough game one loss, the Heat played like champions and showed why they’re the best team in the league. Anyone that can beat the Thunder four straight times is a heck of a team. Miami showed that they’re a heck of a team, and now they’re on top of the basketball world.