The 2012 NBA Finals are exactly what the world wanted; a close series between the two most entertaining teams in the league with the two best players in the league. There is only one problem if you asked the world; LeBron James is too close to winning his first title. Despite three close games, the Heat are winning the series 2-1, and if not for a bad fourth quarter in game one, they could be up 3-0. Here are my thoughts on what has transpired so far in this series.
It has become very clear in these playoffs that when Dwyane Wade is somewhere close to his ‘A’ game, he and LeBron form the deadliest 1-2 punch in the game. They ran through the Pacers when Wade flipped the switch, and finally overcame the Celtics when he did the same. In game one, Wade was not on his game and in games two and three, both Miami victories, he played great in his sidekick role. When both LeBron and Wade are playing well, they can win with or without big contributions from other players. If both continue on their hot streak, Miami could win in five.
Besides LeBron James, Russell Westbrook gets more flak for being the way he is than anyone in the league. And much like the way James gets ragged on, most of it is undeserved. Westbrook is such a special talent and so many people cannot appreciate his game for his flaws. As far as point guards go, only Derrick Rose can compare in athleticism and explosiveness. He is an excellent scorer in a league that is headed towards having more scoring point guards than pure point guards anyway. His major flaw, of course, is his passing abilities and feel for the game as far as being a point guard goes.
Westbrook plays with the best scorer in the world and the second best player in the game. As a point guard it is part of his duty to make sure Kevin Durant gets the ball in places where he can succeed, which for the most part is pretty easy because Durant can score the basketball from anywhere. At times, Westbrook struggles to make sure Durant is involved in the offense because of his own scoring abilities.
With all of that being said, this is not completely Westbrook’s fault. Didn’t the Thunder/Sonics know what kind of player Westbrook was coming out of college? They knew he wasn’t a pure point guard. Where has the development been over the past few years? Aren’t two of the Thunder coaches former NBA point guards (Scott Brooks and Maurice Cheeks)? Didn’t the Thunder just acquire a veteran point guard who has had to know his entire career who should have the ball and when (Derek Fisher)? NONE of these guys have been able to get through to him? Or is the effort not there? I feel like Westbrook is a coachable guy and some of the blame lies on their end.
One other guy who needs to take part of the responsibility in the development of Russell Westbrook the point guard is the Batman to his Robin, Kevin Durant. Durant is the unquestioned leader of the team. I respect and appreciate the way he sticks up for his point guard and he needs to continue to let Westbrook know that he is on his side. But at times, the soft spoken Durant needs to tell Westbrook to stop goofing around and get him the ball. Westbrook needs to understand that Durant is the best scorer in the world and listen to him. And since giving the ball to Durant and getting him as many shots as possible is best for the team, Durant telling him that is not selfish.
I am a big fan of Westbrook. And It is true, he does need to learn to get the ball to Durant and get him more shots than anyone on the court, but for all the good things he does, he should not get as much crap as he does. He is nearly averaging a triple double for the series, and he is still being ripped apart more than anyone else this past week. But as many bad things as they say about Westbrook, it will never compare to what this next guy has received.
LeBron James seems to have finally gotten it. He is playing at another level right now, and best of all, he has been getting it done in the fourth quarter. The series is still young and the Heat find themselves in the same position as last year at this time, but there is a different feeling about this Finals. LeBron is handling the pressure better; he is dominating the paint and has been getting better as the year has gone along. Simply said, he is doing everything that he didn’t do last year. LeBron has seemed to realize that no perimeter defender on the Thunder can handle him inside. He is scoring in the paint and rebounding better than ever. Has there been another who has improved his rebounding statistics so much from the regular season to the postseason? His improvement has been dramatic; it really is impressive.
We still have at least two games to go in this series, and the games to come promise to be close and exciting. Although we don’t know what the rest of the series holds, answers to important questions will arise. Will Westbrook get the grasp of being a true point guard? Will Durant make his claim to being the best player in the world? Will Wade continue to play at an elite level? And will LeBron wilt under the pressure or thrive to capture his first title? If these Finals live up to standards the world wants, we won’t find out until the end of game seven.