Miami Thrice Title Quest Diary – Post Game

Last week for the first time in the two year history of the Big Three, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade played exactly as we envisioned…and it was absolutely brilliant.  They made the extra pass, the attacked the boards like rabid wolverines and they were lights out when they got open shots.

LeBron absolutely dominated and in taking the entire focus of the Thunder’s overmatched defense allowed all of Miami’s miracle three’s to be shot completely open.  On defense he terrified the Thunder into bad shots and sloppy passes all night.  Every time he found a wide open shooter he was rewarded, and the amount of free dunks for Wade and Bosh is a testament to that.

Then there were the little things: the Heat outhustled the Thunder to every loose ball and played to win from the outset.  Shane Battier and Mike Miller made sure they earned their first title by burying nearly all their threes in an outrageous display.  Each time Mike Miller shot @madadub and I yelled “No!”  which turned into “Another one!!!  Unbelievable!”  Bosh and Wade contributed spectacular blocks and LeBron had another one that should have ended up in the stands.

Making the right play at the right time is hard, and in the playoffs LeBron was able to do so each and every time.  Before Game 6 of the Boston series LeBron needed a hard gut check and he took it.  His response was unbelievable and he suddenly got it.  The light went on and he knew that the only way to a Championship is the hard way.  He earned it big time and with one of the best seasons in NBA history.  Before Game 6 he did not seem to want it – and then suddenly he did.  From that point on he did what superstars have to in order to win: make everyone around them better.  LeBron lifted his team each and every second of the game.

The Heat saw exactly how well they can play – when LeBron leads the way.

Miami’s best players have to be LeBron, Bosh and then Wade.  Can Wade occasionally take over?  Sure, but the Heat are best when he takes a step back and Bosh moves forward.

Going forward this team could be genuinely scary: LeBron, at 27, has finally figured out what it takes to win.  And he is the best player in the world.  He admits this was the hardest thing he has ever done, period.  A relaxed ‘Bron?  Truly terrifying (even Westbrook was beaten in Game 5 – it was like he had literally done everything he could have but watched them lose.  He just had nothing left).

Some thoughts on the afterparty:

– Miami could easily have spent more than 200k, but they took it easy.

– What made LBJ decide to throw on the “Vampire LeBron” shirt for the celebration?  Was he saving it for five or six years and telling himself “when I win a title I am finally going to wear this shirt”

Could Miami and OKC have a series of epic battles going forward?  Durant is going to win four or five titles and Miami could win a couple more.  These teams will meet again with something serious on the line.  Bill Simmons wrote that one of the most important things for Superstars is to be pushed by a rival.  LeBron had virtually vanquished all of his, but Durant will not go away.  This rivalry has the chance to go the distance.

We as fans, cannot wait.

 

Advertisements

Miami Thrice Title Quest Diary – THE TITLE!!!

MIAMI WINS!  MIAMI WINS!

YES!!!

Everyone on the court went above and beyond to earn this title.  LeBron did everything he had to and defensively the team was brilliant.  All the little things got done.

And then there was Shane Battier and Mike Miller.

Playing for the title both were absolutely lights out.  Miller did exactly what they brought him in for two years ago – he hit threes when LeBron found him with the pass.  The Thunder collapsed four players on LeBron all night and he cut them apart with his passing.

Unbelievable.

A Ring for the King…and he earned it, the hard way.

One of the ten best players in the history of the league just earned his first title.  He was Larry Bird 2.0.  Not Wilt.  Larry Bird.  This was his greatest postseason ever – perhaps the greatest postseason performance of all time.

Miami are NBA Champs!

LeBron, Wade, Bosh all earned it tonight.  The smile on LBJ’s face and the fact he was not letting that trophy go said it all.  His girlfriend may also be sleeping alone tonight….

Congrats to the Champs!

Miaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaami!

 

 

Miami Thrice Title Quest Diary – June 19, 2012

Exhale.  Breathe.  Exhale.  Breathe.  Remember to breathe.

So many things to cover: LeBron James injury, Mario Chalmers epic performance, DWade’s leadership and Shane Battier wanting it more than anyone else on the floor.

We start with Russell Westbrook, a man who just put on the 2nd epic point guard performance against the Miami Heat of these playoffs.  Interestingly though: both in games that Miami ended up winning.  Westbrook was unstoppable going to the rim…but it kept Durant from taking over.  Time and again Westbrook passed up on making easy shots for Durant and shot himself.  He was amazing but he was not leading the team to victory.

LeBron James got hurt on a seemingly innocent drive where he looked as if he blew a tire.  Vicious cramps all but ended his game…except for a one legged drive and then a one legged three!  Without LeBron the team managed to pull out the win thanks to the fantastic and timely play of Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh.

DWade was a little more treat than trick this evening and managed to provide solid leadership throughout the game.

A truly magnificent game by the Heat – coming back from a brutal Thunder charge from out of the gate and then weathering the storm enough to gut out a win.  This is what it takes.

Shane Battier knows.  He is doing whatever it takes and his tip on the jump ball may have been the most significant play of his career.  He wanted it more, simply wanted to get it done.  Battier leapt for the ball and managed to tip it to Chalmers.  Westbrook transforming again into an extremely young player fouled Chalmers right away completely uneccessarily.

Miami wanted it more tonight and even with ‘Bron on the sideline, they managed to get it done.

Miami Thrice Title Quest Diary – June 18, 2012

By the end of the fourth quarter of last night’s game – Father’s Day naturally – my dad, brother and I were all standing and shouting at the TV.  We were living and dying with each possession.  Again Miami had to fight their way through to the end for a victory.  Unlike the last couple of games, they ended up benefitting from some ridiculously sloppy play by the Thunder.  Westbrook simply cut the wrong way and Thabo threw the ball to DWade – while looking right at Westbrook.  It was like watching one of those bizarre brain freeze moments where the muscle just kicks in and you have to watch in slow motion the worst possible thing happen.

Then again, the Thunder benefitted by horrible play in the last couple of minutes from Dwyane Wade.  During these playoffs I have become frequently “distrustful” of DWade: he is easily the most arrogant man still battling for the Championship and his selfish play has cost the Heat dearly.  His terrible turnover, where he simply thought he was better than Sefolosha, led to a minute lead for the Heat.  Aside from James Harden’s flopping, Wade’s overconfidence has been the most aggravating thing about these finals.

Aside from shooting terribly, Chris Bosh played well and with some energy (if only he could have hit some shots) and his offensive rebounding was fantastic.  The Heat have simply decided the ticket to winning is to beat up OKC on the boards and they have been very successful to this point.  Several key Heat baskets have been the result of offensive boards – LeBron had a steal of a basket – and their ticket to victory may be through rebounding.

The Heat need one more game at least at home – and it would be best if the boys did not have to go seven.  OKC is a tough place to play and the Heat need to avoid it if possible.  LeBron continues to put the team on his back; but it is clear now that he has help.  The Heat want it.  They really, really want it.

Then again, two epic LBJ games are due in addition to an epic Durant outing.  This will not be easy.  Back to watching between my fingers.

Miami Thrice Title Quest Diary – June 14, 2012

Miami struggled last game to close out OKC in the second half, but there is reason for optimism.  Here are five:

1) LBJ has at least two monster games lurking – Given what he did in Boston, he can easily do the same against OKC.  This series is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.  No one is better than LBJ.  No one.

2) The Heat will make adjustments – In the second half of game one, Miami seemed totally disorganized and no one seemed to know who was guarding who.  LeBron switched off at least a dozen times, frantically waving at confused teammates to cover open Thunder shooters.  This game they should be more organized.

3) Shane Battier wants it badly – Shane has waited a long, long time to get to the NBA Finals and in the opening minutes it was very clear that he intends to fully seize the opportunity.  On Tuesday he played lights out for 90% of the game.  Can he continue?  We will see, but effort will not be a problem.

4) DWade will play the “right way” – By the “right way” I mean he will defer to LeBron and do enough to help the team win (ie. “score points”).  Without Wade the Heat will not win.  Might be about the time for him to get his knee drained again…He really has nowhere to go but up.

5) Chris Bosh will get comfy – Bosh looked off on Tuesday, but he should settle in tonight.  He wants to win, period.  He will do whatever it takes to make it happen.

And…5 Reasons the Heat will not be Okay…

1) OKC is deep and young…very deep and very young – They made the Heat look slow.

2) OKC is unselfish – On a two on one, Westbrook did not take it to the rim like Wade would, but instead made an unselfish pass.  The right pass.  Sometimes their unselfishness is maddening when you have spent two years watching the freaking Miami Heat.

3) Harden will heat up – Big Game James only played 22 minutes and really had no offensive impact.  Tonight will be different.  Harden is too good to be a second fiddle for long.

4) Durant only cares about winning – The man is all about winning.  His entire career has been about being the best.  He wants to win and this is his first of many chances.

5) Westbrook is on again and no one on Miami can guard him – Westbrook pretty much had his way with the Heat.  Unlike Rondo they cannot challenge him to shoot deep twos or threes.  Westbrook is a good shooter.

I still believe the Heat will come out on top, butt his will be hard fought all the way.

Miami Thrice Title Quest Diary – June 12, 2012

Miami 3 vs. OKC

The 2nd straight NBA Finals featuring Miami’s Big Three kicked off tonight and instead of focusing on the panic and pessimism that will surely come (just wait 2 paragraphs!) I am instead going to celebrate the achievements of the Heat.

LeBron James has had one of the best statistical seasons ever and now, following his incredible performance against the Celtics, finally seems to be fully comprehending “the secret”.  He knows what it takes to win and his face says it all “Give me the ball and I can win this thing…”.  While he may still be Wilt 2.0, he is suddenly 1967 Wilt and in many ways, much more.  LeBron still does all the little things, and he wants a ring so badly that he truly wants to earn it!  Two years in a row he has dragged a truly awful three man team to the Finals – twice in these playoffs alone he has erased Series deficits …by himself.

He may not win a title against this incredibly deep OKC team but either way he has left it all on the floor and ultimately he can do no more than know he is one of the seven best players of all time.

Chris Bosh has, somewhat surprisingly, transformed himself into an underrated player and the perfect compliment to James.  He can hit the big shot with abandon and has no problem stepping up or back depending on what is needed.  Then there is the fact he plays each and every game like it is the NBA Finals (see the roar).  Like James, he has learned the hard way just what it takes to be a Champion.

As for Wade – his year has been a difficult one and it is very likely he is fighting a serious injury and has been all season long.  This has not stopped him from stepping up and carrying the team at times because no one in the NBA heats up like DWade.  When his jumper is falling it is a thing of beauty and few in history have expl0ded to the rim like he does.  He still fights with being second option on the Heat but has seemed much more accepting overall or his reduced leadership role.

Meanwhile, OKC seems more and more like the perfectly constructed NBA team.  They are so frighteningly athletic and unselfish that it is astounding.  Harden barely contributed tonight and a big game is lurking out there for the bearded man.

Win or lose there will be no regret on either side.  No repeat of last year’s disappearing act.  LBJ is at his zenith and will not stop or be broken.  Nor will KD.  Welcome to the new era as the final vestiges of the old generation have finally been swept aside.  A new generation rises.

What a show we will get.

My prediction: Head says OKC

Heart says go with LBJ.

Miami will win the NBA Title.

Miami Thrice Title Quest Diary – June 10, 2012

As I watched the fourth quarter of Game Seven through my fingers, there was only one thing I kept repeating, over and over, like a mantra – “What does LeBron’s face look like?  What face does he have?”

Was he sporting the “checked out zombie” look or was he sporting the “totally dialled in and this game is mine and you cannot possibly stop me” face?

The following quote answers the question completely:

“That was a back breaker for us,” said Rivers of James’ three. “He in particular played a very smart, aggressive game. He let the game come to him, and then down the stretch he took the game over. That’s what great players do.”

Rivers is of course referring to the 30 footer that James shot with a hand in his face and then stood, watching with his follow through raised as he knew instantly the ball was going in.  How many players in the league would have taken – and made – that shot?  By any calculation it is an extremely short list.

As he did in Game 6, James did not back down when the pressure got intense – rather, he found a gear he has rarely hit before.  He finally showed that he knows exactly what needs to be done to win a title.  There was no quit, not even when the Heat got down early.  He set the tone defensively and on offense he created nearly everything for the team.  Moreover though, LeBron did whatever it took to win.  When they needed a bucket he took it coast to coast; when they needed a rebound he skied for it; when someone had to be shut down, he shut them down; when they needed a dagger he nailed a ridiculous thirty footer.  His face said it all, and thus so did his teammates faces.  We are not going to lose was his mantra, repeated over and over through his actions.  On the bench during timeouts he did deep yoga breathing in order to keep his composure and remain locked in.

Finally, LeBron understands.  Finally, we are seeing exactly what he is capable of – dare we say that for the first time we are seeing LeBron’s ceiling?

LeBron’s inspiring play helped lift the games of Chris Bosh (who was absolutely instrumental in this win, particularly with his shooting and tenaciously aggressive defense in the paint) and DWade who, along with the other members of Miami’s Big Three scored the team’s final 31 points.

Yet LeBron led the way, start to finish.  Before the game he even told the team in their huddle that it was their game, and they were going to win.  I suspect it was one of the first times this season that Wade has taken a secondary role.  Power has been transfered and it is incredibly clear after one of the greatest series long performances ever that Miami is once and for all, LeBron James’ team.

Win or lose.

Miami Thrice Title Quest Diary – June 8, 2012

So it appears the King may finally be ready to earn his ring. 

LeBron’s epic Game Six final showed (a little frustratingly) that he knows what it takes to win and he proved it tonight.

It went far beyond his 45 points / 15 boards and 5 assists – his teammates were 18 of 50 from the field – and extended to leadership that caused the team to pull together and refuse to lose.  Do not misunderstand though, this was LeBron putting the team on his back and simply carrying the team through.

The best part of his performance: his face.  He was dialled in all night long.  No fear and no chance of missing any of his shots.  This was a face that said, “F this, I got it.  No worries.  Additionally, if you miss any open shots I will strangle you in the locker room”.  At times his face was downright terrifying.

He inspired his teammates (even if they did not step up) and despite their apparent fear of LeBron he did not let them down once tonight.  He came through for them and proved just how amazing a player he is.  His hustle was incredible, even forty minutes into the game (in which he never sat once) he was still running to every ball and fighting for every rebound.  Moving like LeBron did for forty-five minutes is nearly impossible for most NBA players but his effort was truly astounding.

A one game series remains.

 

My Life as a Chelsea Fan – June 6, 2012

Some of the things I have started to enjoy as a newfound football fan of the Chelsea Football Club:

– Snickering as I walk past people wearing lesser team’s jerseys.  Every time I see someone wearing a Barca or Man U jersey it makes me smile knowing Chelsea is better.  The good life, the good life indeed.

– Following the transfers…and being excited about it!  Chelsea has already made two massive signings: Eden Hazen a 21 year old forward and “Hulk” a talented Brazilian…forward.  All told Chelsea spent around 70 million pounds to bring more strikers to the squad.  Ironically still cheaper than keeping legend Didier Drogba.

– Speculating about what Chelsea will do next season with Fernando Torres.  The man of course whom the fans supported through his entire goal scoring drought…who then turned on the team stating he wants the big chair.  Torres does a lot of things well, and I have heard the team may play with “Hulk” and Hazen as wingers and Torres in the Drogba spot.  This is of course ridiculous in my opinion, as there is no way “Hulk” can play the wing.  He is a striker.  Torres is also one of the best wingers in the world (of course he is also the most overpaid winger in the world) and should occupy the spot on opening day barring a fire sale of the disgruntled forward.

– Worrying about Chelsea players in other tournaments is quickly becoming my favorite part of the off season!  Watching Gary Cahill break his jaw in two place during a “friendly” was one of the best moments of my week!  God bless sarcasm.

With my NBA Season ending shortly…and the NHL possibly over tonight, I am glad to have transfer speculation to keep me going sports wise.

Well, that and EURO 2012.

 

The Tao of LeBron

We always seek to have greatness defined by Championships – but in truth, titles simply serve to validate greatness.  Being able to say “(Blank) won a title and was one of the greatest ever” provides instant weight to any argument.  We can point to Kobe’s five glittering rings and prentend that he understood what it meant to be a Champion or that he gets it (he rarely has: three rings because of Shaq, two because Gasol joined him and Odom).

Perhaps LeBron James does not understand what it takes to win, does not feel the need to win.  Perhaps he wants to win, or it would be nice…but titles do not consume him like they did Duncan or Jordan.  LeBron may feel his greatness speaks for itself, just not during tense times.  We want him to want a title and he obviously does, even though he wanted to take a shortcut to get there (simply by signing up with Wade / Bosh).  When he came to Miami he said it was all about winning – never truly about earning a ring.

Take Boston and look at how much Pierce / Garnett / Allen / Rondo are killing themselves to beat LeBron.  The Celtics have three (goddamn) guys playing on one leg.  They are the thinnest of teams….and still Miami cannot beat them.  Part of it is the fact Miami is a lottery team without LeBron, the other part is that James wants no part of crippling late game pressure, nor to work together with his teammate Dwyane Wade.  LeBron wants titles, but he wants them simply because he is the best player and not because he has earned them.  Never has this been clearer than during the 2012 Playoffs.

LeBron has scored, defended, rebounded and made all his teammates better during these playoffs.  At times he has put the team on his back and carried them through (particuarly past the Pacers).  Statistically he is having one of the greatest postseasons of all time.  Yet none of this will ever be enough.  LeBron does not understand how to go beyond the stats.

In all liklihood he leaves Miami ringless and with little chance of winning one going forward.  He made the wrong “decision” – the easy choice instead of the hard one.  All the words about “sacrifice” and “whatever it takes” ring hollowly around Miami.  Wade has not sacrificed one bit (if anything he has gotten more selfish), nor has James (and nor should he.  Can it be any clearer that he is the best player on the planet?).

Each plays his own game in which of the best players in the world stands forlornly at the perimeter, despondently waiting for an invite to play that will never come.  James fails to understand that wanting a ring does not translate to winning one.  Or that putting up ridiculous numbers guarantees anything – it does not (ask Carmelo).

He is truly Wilt reborn, a stat machine gifted by the gods for absolute dominance while caring little about actually playing to win.  Crunch time eviscerated Wilt and slowly it has begun eating away at LeBron, undermining him game by game.

On the other side of the coin stands Kevin Durant, a man destined it would seem to be the Russell to LeBron’s Wilt.  While KD is still mostly a pure scorer, he seems to be more instinctual at sensing what needs to be done in order to win.  The most important part of his game has been his ability to play with Harden and Westbrook and feed off each other’s energy to play symbiotic basketball.  Imagine – two stars who play together instead of compete with one another.

Durant never backs down and knows when to take over or to feed the hot hand.  Giving up is never an option and winning, for him, truly means something.

Winning for LeBron is a by-product of his great play, not the essence of his core.

Is LeBron happy with himself?  Of course – he is one of the greatest players of all time.  A man who can do anything he wants on the court, at any time.  He truly did everything he could on a weak team: except elevate himself and his teammates to a title.

Everything he accomplished this year is enough for LeBron.

For us, basketball fans?  It is not even close: he has failed epically and will continue to do so.