Heat 102 – Nets 96 (Miami leads 3-1)
Sure, the Nets made mistakes. Going Iso Joe down the stretch, against the NBA’s best defender no less, was probably not the smartest thing to do, and also it would be nice if Deron Williams could hit a big shot every now and then.
Dwelling on the negative, though, seems kind of silly, and like a cynical way to talk about this game. Yeah, the Nets blew some chances—and probably their season, too, in their Game 4 loss to the Heat Monday night in Brooklyn—but they also got beat by the best, at his best. There’s no shame in that.
Here’s what LeBron James did last night: he scored 49 of his team’s 101 points, and he did so on just 24 shots. He missed just eight times. He played 43 minutes—and didn’t make up for the lack of breaks on the defensive end of the court, either—and his five minutes of rest all came in the first half.
“He was indefatigable,” Erik Spoelstra said after the game before asking out loud if he had indeed pronounced his SAT word properly. Apparently LeBron is so good that he’s now raising the vocabulary of those around him too. “He was fantastic tonight. He just has a way of sensing what we need.”
And then there was that unselfishness again. Except unselfish has never really been the right word to use to describe LeBron’s game, even though it might be the one used most often. It’s not that LeBron is an unselfish basketball player, although he most certainly is. It’s more that he’s a brilliant one, or as Spoelstra put it, “he reads the game as well as anyone who’s ever played the game.”
Take, for example, the following explanation offered up by LeBron when asked about his willingness to give up the ball in the game’s final minutes.
“It’s about making the right play every single time, make or miss,” he said, adding: “It’s a numbers game. I draw two, we got 4-on-3 on the backside. You make the right play and live by the results of it.”
That’s the NBA’s best player preaching process over results, and doing so following a game where he scored nearly half his team’s points, and yet still had no problem letting someone else take the night’s biggest shot.
Sometimes, basketball is a really simple game. Sometimes, one team wins for no reason other than it had the best player on the court.
That’s what happened to the Nets in Game 4. They’re not the first team to come up short against LeBron, and, odds are, they won’t be the last.—Yaron Weitzman
Blazers 103 – Spurs 92 (San Antonio leads 3-1)
Change is good.
We witnessed a change in last night’s Game 4—a shift in power if you will. Unlike the first three games of this series, the Portland Trail Blazers came out aggressive and passionate, maintaining a lead across quarters that eventually resulted in a win.
Led by Damian Lillard’s 25 points and Nicolas Batum’s double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds, the Blazers proved they were not yet ready for elimination. They played with a passion absent in the previous three games, outscoring the Spurs 62-44 in the paint, thanks to moves like this:
A two-point Blazer lead at halftime exploded into a 35-20 pounding of the vets in the third quarter, which ended on a 20-7 run. Batum scored seven consecutive points in this run, consisting of that ever-so-common four-point play, followed up by another three.
For much of the fourth quarter, San Antonio’s starters (each of whom recorded less than 28 minutes) occupied the bench. The night after the Lost Angeles Clippers overcame a double-digit fourth quarter deficit to steal the win from the Oklahoma City Thunder, Coach Pop decided to play his cards a little differently.
He sensed a Game 5 in his team’s future in an arena called home—flooded with black and white that matches the jerseys on his players’ backs and is only interrupted by multiple golden Larry O’Brien trophies displayed on banners hanging from the AT&T Center’s ceiling. Sure, he’ll trade in the broom for a Game 5.
So yes, the shift in power mentioned above—more likely than not—is temporary. It lasted the duration of Game 4, about two hours and 21 minutes. We can’t say for sure how long this change will last, but it was refreshing to witness a team everyone wrote off successfully bounce back and hold on for dear life.
Now it’s full speed ahead to Game 5, tomorrow night in San Antonio. Bless the NBA for the 9:30 p.m. EST start, East Coasters’ sleep schedules can’t thank you enough.—Habeeba Husain