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Heat Silence Thunder, Take 3-1 Finals Lead

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

 The Miami Heat are one win away from winning the NBA Finals after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday night by the score of 104-98. Miami now leads the best-of-seven NBA Finals 3-1. Teams are 30-0 all-time in the NBA Finals when leading the series 3-1.

The X-Factor in Game 4 was Heat point guard Mario Chalmers. The 4th year man out of Kansas scored 25 points, including 3 free throws in the final 13 seconds of regulation. Before his 25 points, Chalmers had only made 2 of his previous 18 shot attempts. Obviously Mario felt comfortable with his stroke on Tuesday.

“I didn’t lose any confidence. It was just picking my shots better,” said Chalmers in postgame. “I knew I would have a lot of open looks. I just wanted to knock the shots down.”

Dwyane Wade scored 25 as well. LeBron James led Miami in scoring (26), assists (12), and rebounds (9), but had to sit out a portion of the final 6 minutes with leg cramps. Chris Bosh chipped in with 13 points and 9 boards.

Oklahoma City got two great offensive scoring performances from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. The two combined for 71 points. The problem for OKC was the rest of the team only scoring 27.

Westbrook scored a career playoff-high 43 points. He finished 20-32 from the field. As impressive as his scoring was, many will remember his error in the final moments of Game 4. With teammate James Harden battling for a jump ball with Heat forward Udonis Haslem, Miami had 5 seconds on the shot clock. There was 17 seconds left in regulation, and the Thunder trailed by 3. After the ball bounced around, Chalmers finally gained possession but was fouled immediately by Westbrook. Mario sunk two  free throws, thus icing the game.

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

 ”It was just miscommunication on my part,” Westbrook acknowledged. “There’s nothing I can do about it now.”

That costly mistake should not overshadow Russell’s offensive performance. His teammate James Harden had a bad performance for the second straight game, scoring only 8 points on 2-10 shooting. With Harden struggling, Westbrook was more assertive offensively, nailing jump shots and taking it to the rim.

“My shots were falling, “Westbrook said. “But it really doesn’t mean nothing, we didn’t come up with the win.”

Durant was solid, scoring 28 on 9-19 from the field. He was perfect from the charity strip (9-9).

“We’re going to keep fighting,” said Durant. “It’s frustrating to lose a game like that, but we’ll have to take it a possession at a time.”

Again, the issue was the Thunder getting no help for their two All-Stars. The role players for OKC played well early, helping the Thunder gain a 17 point lead by the end of the 1rst quarter. Unfortunately for the road team, they struggled for much of the following 3 quarters. Miami went on a quick 19-2 run, evaporating OKC’s big lead in only 3:45.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

 OKC will try to do what 30 teams in NBA Finals history haven’t been able to do. Come back from a 3-1 deficit. If they can win Thursday night in Miami, they can at least get the series back to Oklahoma City for a Game 6 and possible Game 7. However, the Heat will be ready to close it out at home in front of their homefans.

“I’m not taking our preperation for Game 5 for granted,” noted James. “We’re going to prepare the same way we have been all series. If we play Miami Heat basketball, we’ll give ourselves a good chance to win.”

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