Tonight is not Game 5—it’s Game 7.
At least that’s what the players are saying, and that’s what it feels like down here in Miami.
On one hand, it’s all just a bad cliché. Every game in the Finals is a must-win, every game’s a Game 7, yada yada yada. On the other hand, when it comes to tonight’s game that might actually very well be the case.
From the Oklahoma City Thunder’s point of view, obviously, tonight is a must-win. Like, it’s really a must-win. If they do not win tonight, the series and the season is over. So it makes sense that OKC feels like it’s a do-or-die Game 5.
When it comes to the Miami Heat, things are only slightly murkier. No, they don’t technically have to win tonight. If they lose, they’ll still have two more chances to close out the series. Problem is, those two games would take place on the road, in Oklahoma City, with oodles of pressure compounding the already difficult task at hand. LeBron, DWade and Co. want to no part of that.
All that in mind, yeah, it’s probably pretty fair for both teams to refer to tonight’s game as Game 7. And all that in mind, we are definitely in for one heckuva Game 5
I arrived here, at American Airlines Arena, at four p.m., and I’ll be here well into the wee hours of night. If you want, feel free to come along for the ride.
8:39 PM: Kevin Durant was the first player on either team to take the court for warmups (Daequan Cook came out of the tunnel with him). Not that he usually doesn’t, but he looked uberfocused. Russell Westbrook, though, seemed to be in his usual coolin’ mode when seen in the locker room shortly thereafter, browsing on his phone and sharing laughs with lockermate, Eric Maynor. Hard to say which approach is better: the extrafocused one, or the regular game one.
8:42 PM: Miami’s locker room was a zoo. Hundreds (OK, maybe dozens) of media and only one or two players. Ever the savvy vet, when LeBron emerged he plugged his iPod into the speakers and turned his music all the way up. No one bothers you when the music is that loud (unless you’re at the club). Also, funny, little-used Heat Terrel Harris whipped out his phone and started recording the media circus in the locker room. He said, “Why not? If you can record us, we can record you. Why not?” It was pretty funny, and made some people uncomfortable.
8:45 PM: OKC took the court to the expected chorus of boos. Miami emerged moments later to loud cheers. Arena is pretty full considering their late-arriving reputation. Be interesting to see what kind of fans are here tonight, considering tickets were going on the second-hand market for over $20 Gs.
8:47 PM: Three minutes until the anthem, lineups and all that. Finna chill now ’till gametime.
9:04 PM: 9:07 is the official tip-off time. Or as LeBron deemed it yesterday, “Midnight.”
9:06 PM: Dwyane Wade walking around the court, engaging the fans pre-tip, doing his best Kevin Garnett impersonation. And, he’s successful! “Let’s Go Heat” chant starts before the game even does.
9:08 PM: Welp, Kevin Durant with the first turnover of the game, and it leads to a big dunk by LeBron James.
9:10 PM: Seems like Heat ran the same play to open this game and last, both of which led to Chris Bosh jumpers (Game 4 made; Game 5 missed).
9:11 PM: Kendrick Perkins with the rebound and the immediate outlet pass. Perhaps OKC is trying to rin more tonight?
9:12 PM: Another turnover. If I had to describe this series I’d say All-Star game like, albeit with defense.
9:13 PM: Durant with the little backdown, fadeaway J over LeBron. KD’s made it clear through his play and words that he doesn’t think LBJ can guard him.
9:14 PM: A foul is called on Durant…and the fans go wild.
9:16 PM: The ever-loquacious Shane Battier with his first three of the game. Goes without saying, his bombs have been a major part of Heat’s success this series. Meanwhile, OKC is not cherishing the ball like Perkins urged them to. Russ and KD each already have thrown an errant pass.
9:19 PM: It took an and-one by James for the “MVP” chants to rain down. He earned another round with another and-one on the ensuing possession. At the six-minute mark the Heat lead the Thunder, 16-10.
9:24 PM: A lot of turnovers (5). A lot of fouls called (9). Not really what fans necessarily want to see.
9:28 PM: Chris Bosh fakes Perkins out of his mellon and finishes with uncontested dunk. People around me wondering, Nick Collison time?
9:30 PM: OKC trails by seven, 22-15, with under four minutes left in the first. They’re struggling in every facet of the game right now. Hopefully that extended-by-TV timeout gave them time to regroup.
9:31 PM: Out of that TO, a play designed to for a Russ Westbrook three ends with the ball stuck between the rim and backboard. Why not design the play for Durant, though? He’s still the better shooter of the two.
9:33 PM: Norris Cole, early hero in Game 4, checks into the game after a poor play by Chalmers. See if he can bring the magic again.
9:35 PM: Mike Miller has already hit a pair of treys this game. A few years ago, even when the Heat signed him in 2010, that would’ve sounded natural. Now it sounds like a (pleasant) aberration for Miami.
9:37 PM: Mike Miller AND Norris Cole hitting threes? It was written.
9:38 PM: Dunno how it looked on TV, but in the arena it sure felt like the Heat dominated the first quarter. The fact that the Thunder are only down five, 31-26, should have them in good spirits. Could’ve been a lot worse.
9:40 PM: Heat hit four threes that quarter, and shot 57 percent overall. Thunder were 0-2 from deep, and shot 37.5 percent as a whole.
9:43 PM: Wow, charge called on Durant. That’s his second foul.
9:45 PM: Perkins is very vocal and active on OKC’s bench. Has wandered onto court a few times to cheer on teammates.
9:46 PM: Russ misses an open dunk, and Wade follows it with a tough tip-in. His shoe then becomes untied and the Heat are forced to burn a timeout. On the plus side, Wade’s signature Jordans just got a lot of air time on TV.
9:49 PM: I should have made this clear a game or two ago, but the in-arena music here at the AAA is horrendous. Both the selection and the volume is all wrong.
9:52 PM: Miami’s been steady getting that third and fourth producer all series. Tonight it’s Mike Miller’s turn, as he has a team-high 9 points right now. With James Harden doubled and Ibaka AWOL, Thunder are still looking for another scorer to emerge. Running out of time.
9:53 PM: No offense to Gerald Wallace, but Dwyane Wade has certainly earned the nickname “Crash.” Can he steal it, or share it or borrow it? “Floorburn” could work too for Wade.
9: 55 PM: Heat lead the Thunder, 41-34. Wade with 9, Bosh with 8, LeBron with 7. Westbrook has 11 and Durant has 9 for OKC.
9:59 PM: Bron just bullied Harden and the little guy didn’t even try to put up a fight. What’s going on with him? Still, was a big man finish by James, as Perk met him high and hard at the rim.
10:00 PM: Rio Chalmers throws a pass away…and James looks like he wants to strangle him.
10:01 PM: Man, Chris Bosh is showing out. He might’ve gotten more heat than Bron from media last year. After tonight, if this continues, he should feel some of the same love too.
10:03 PM: With that, DWade now has three fouls. Opens a door for OKC, have to kick it down.
10:05 PM: So this is the Mike Miller the Big Three so desperately wanted with them in Miami.
10:05 PM: KD needs to stop trying to pass. That’s the one thing he’s been incapable of doing tonight. Thrown away at least a couple balls.
10:06 PM: Even with Wade on the bench, Miami’s lead has ballooned to 15, 53-38.
10:07 PM: We’ve reached the point in the game where Danny Granger would take a swipe at LeBron or Dwyane.
10:09 PM: So Westbrook is 2-9 and Durant is 4-12. Those percentages equate to a four-letter word in OKC.
10:11 PM: Nah, Shane Battier did not just take Kevin Durant off the dribble! If that’s the case, OKC might as well not come out and play the second half. (As it stands now, Miami’s up, 57-45.)
10:15 PM: Ibaka needs more bunnies like that. He’s gotten them all year, but for some reason not this series.
10:17 PM: LeBron is digging deep into his magician’s hat tonight. Utilizing all kinds of game on the block. Fancy footwork and all.
10:19 PM: LeBron and the Heat are a half away from making it happen. They lead 59-49 at the break. (Though to be honest, walking to the tunnel KD doesn’t look too nervous.)
10:37 PM: Durant hits a three on the first possession of the fourth. Maybe OKC will make it a game yet. After all, all of first four contests have been close.
10:38 PM: And just like that it’s a five-point game. … And just like that, it’s not. Chris Bosh unsung hero here.
10:39 PM: Ibaka already has four this half. They need to keep going there.
10:40 PM: Chalmers and Battier with back-to-back threes. What the heck can OKC do about that?! Leads back up to 11, 67-56.
10:43 PM: It’s already after 1040 on east coast. Sucks to be a kid nowadays. No way too many of them can stay up all the way to the end of this one.
10:45 PM: James Harden checking into the game with eight minutes left in the third. If he has any game left in his system, now’s the time to exhaust it.
10:47 PM: Rio/KD showing some fight! Juwan Howard runs off the bench to pull Chalmers back. Might be his biggest contribution of the series. Of course, he’s on the verge of being an NBA Champ, so I can’t talk smack about Howard.
10:50 PM: Some fans are furiously waving the XVI-stamped towels that were given out tonight. (XVI, as imprinted on Bron’s mouthguard, stands for 16, the number of Playoff wins a Championship requires.)
10:51 PM: Every single time OKC looks ready to mount a comeback, a bucket by a lesser Heat player (i.e. non-Big Three) stymies it.
10:53 PM: “Like a Bosh,” an annoying phrase that TBJ popularized last season, is about to take on new meeting.
10:56 PM: Ominous sign, 3000: Chris Bosh (17) is outscoring Russ Westbrook (16).
10:57 PM: Flagrant foul called on Derek Fisher. Dunno about that one. Fish’s former teammate, Shaq, used to get hit that hard 50 times a game.
11:01 PM: Heat lead Thunder, 82-63. Miami’s getting ready to pop bottles and party. Still 15 minutes left to play.
11:04 PM: When the game started two hours ago, would not have predicted this. Miami is up 25, 90-65.
110:06 PM: KD with his fifth turnover. He’s having a hard time maneuvering in the open court. Of all people, I didn’t see this coming from him. He’s scoring, but it’s not enough.
11:07 PM:Well, it’s gonna be a long summer for the Thunder. Should come back motivated next season, but like big Perk says, A lot of people never make it back to the Finals.
11:10 PM: After four games and three quarters, the Heat lead 95-71. They are one quarter away from hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.
11:12 PM: Some fans are headed to the concourse. They can’t possibly be leaving, can they? Can they??
11:14 PM: The Thunder will see you in their nightmares, Mike Miller.
11:16 PM: Mike Wise just jumped out of his chair with Mike Miller’s sixth three. I’m not sure MM did that too often when he played for the Wizards (Wise, a renowned journo, works for the WaPo).
11:18 PM: Think Durant and James will workout together again this summer?
11:20 PM: Heat lead the Thunder, 104-79, with nine minutes left.
11:25 PM: Really stunned right now. Fans must be as well; no where near as loud as it should be in here right now.
11:27 PM: Thunder trim lead to 20, and Heat call timeout. At what point do you take LeBron out of this one?
11:30 PM: Let the King/Ring jokes begin.
11:31 PM: Last year’s Game 6 closeout liveblog got over 300 comments. Hope I haven’t gotten worse.
11:34 PM: BTW, to answer an earlier question, Yes, LeBron and Durant will practice together this summer…for the Olympics.
11:39 PM: Coach Brooks sends in the subs, Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward.