With someone as physically imposing and talented as LeBron James, backed up by two perennial All-Stars in Bosh and Wade, it would make sense that Miami be the unanimous favourite to take out the title in 2012… but that hasn’t been the case. For whatever reason, Miami have had their backs against the wall on countless occasions after just two seasons of the ‘Big Three’ regime.
Enter the Thunder. A bunch of talented, but unseasoned players who some say need to undergo a more rigorous maturation process before they can be considered true contenders… but this too, is not the case. Since their move to Oklahoma City, the Thunder have steadily climbed the ranks and now sit atop the western conference after slaying three previous champions on their way through these playoffs. But in the Miami Heat, they have one formidable challenger standing in their way.
3 votes – LeBron James. The King is undoubtedly the most gifted player left standing, and it seems fitting that he should be competing for his first title against Durant, the runner-up in MVP voting for 2012. When I wrote my column on the Heat back in April, I originally intended to make a case for each team that I considered a contender heading in to the playoffs. But the reason my arguments for the other contending teams never surfaced on the NBAMate homepage, is because I couldn’t see how any team would be able to deal with LeBron in a seven-game series.
I’ve already discussed the improvements he’s made throughout his career, so I won’t go in to that. But I will once again reiterate my point that LeBron James wants this championship more than any other player in the league. His combination of skill, physicality and sheer determination once again proved to be a little too much for the extremely resilient Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3. He’s consistently made plays that traditionally we haven’t seen from him before; his aggressive cuts to the basket have provided Miami with some easy offense, his tenacious effort in getting after loose balls has limited Oklahoma City’s possessions, and his ability to get wherever he wants on the floor has seen Kevin Durant in foul trouble in both the Miami wins.
2 votes – Chris Bosh. This spot was reserved for Dwyane Wade with his terrific play throughout the game, but another costly turnover by Wade kept this game closer than it needed to be. Bosh on the other hand was terrific from start to finish. He struggled with his shot on the perimeter, but he, like James, was getting after every loose ball for Miami and he made some huge plays on the defensive end, which helped Miami close out the win.
1 vote – Dwyane Wade. I’m expecting this will be the last time in this series where the votes are all cast to members of the same team, but it was fitting. No matter what kind of run the Oklahoma City mounted, Miami were able to respond. Dwyane had one of his better offensive performances in recent weeks and he had a spring in his step which I thought was as good as gone.
Kevin Durant earns an honorable mention, but his foul problems have plagued Oklahoma City for two straight games now and you can’t help but feel that if Durant plays without the fouls this could have been a completely different story.