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Thursday, June 21, 2012
Aggressive LeBron, Heat on brink of title

By ESPN Stats & Information


Garrett Ellwood/Getty ImagesLeBron James gets into the paint again for the Heat in the NBA Finals.
The Miami Heat host the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of NBA Finals tonight (9 ET on ABC).

Numbers never lie, right? Entering this year, 30 teams had trailed 3-1 in the NBA Finals and not a single team was able overcome that deficit and win a title. In fact, under the current 2-3-2 format (since 1985) none of the 13 teams facing a 3-1 hole have even forced a decisive Game 7.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE THUNDER?
After winning Game 1, the Thunder have dropped three straight games for just their second three-game losing streak of the season. They haven’t lost four straight games in more than three years, since February of 2009.

Oklahoma City has failed to reach 100 points in their last three games. They had just one such streak during the regular season, when they went five games in a row from April 1-8 without reaching the century mark. When the Thunder does reach 100 points this postseason, they’re 10-1.

One issue has been their poor distance shooting. In the Conference Finals against the Spurs, the Thunder averaged 41.3 points per game from 15+ feet while shooting nearly 45 percent. Against the Heat in the Finals, they are scoring nine points fewer per game and shooting under 38 percent.

The disappearance of James Harden has also hurt the Thunder. Harden had eight points in Game 4, his third game in single digits this series. Harden didn’t have a single-digit scoring game in the first three rounds of the playoffs.

Harden has struggled as the pick & roll ball handler, scoring just four total points on those plays during the Finals, after averaging better than five points per game in the first three playoff rounds. Only 13 percent of his plays have been of the pick-and-roll variety in the Finals, compared to 41 percent in the first three rounds.

WHAT’S RIGHT WITH THE HEAT?
Two words: LeBron James. After a miserable Finals last year, James has emerged as the premier playoff performer this postseason.

James has recorded 671 points this postseason. He is 29 points away from becoming just the fifth player in NBA history to record at least 700 points in a single postseason.

One reason for his success is that he has been more aggressive attacking the basket.

He went 8-for-11 for 16 points inside the paint in Game 4. He’s recorded at least 16 points inside the paint in each of the last six games, his longest such streak in his postseason career (since 2006).

James has also been a primetime player under pressure, scoring 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting in “clutch time” situations (last five minutes of fourth quarter and overtime, score within five points) in the 2012 NBA Finals. In the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, James failed to score or even draw a foul in clutch time.

STAT OF SERIES
The Heat have trailed in three different series this postseason. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no team entering this postseason has won a title in NBA history after trailing in three different series in a single postseason.

Statistical Support from NBA.com