2. Around The Association
MVP: LeBron James. If awards could go to losing teams, Carlos Boozer and Jimmy Butler would split the award for their "guns blazing" offensive production. But James kept Miami's ship steady through the Chicago storm, leading the Heat in points (23), rebounds (7) and assists (8).
X factor: Dwyane Wade's knee tape. Wade was struggling for most of the game, shooting a mediocre 4-for-10 through the first three frames. But after heading back to the locker room in the third quarter to retape his troublesome knee, Wade shot 3-for-3 with three rebounds in the critical final stanza.
That was ... inevitable: Chicago would have received all the "heart & moxie" platitudes even in a sweep. A team missing its best player for the season (Derrick Rose), another player for part of Round 1 and all of Round 2 (Luol Deng) and their defensive anchor hobbled by injury (Joakim Noah), the Bulls' competitive spirit challenged Miami more than anyone could have expected.
MVP: Zach Randolph hammered the Thunder, racking up 28 points and 14 rebounds by outmuscling every defensive permutation OKC threw at him. Marc Gasol spent most of the game wrecking the Thunder offense, Randolph their defense. It proved an indomitable combo.
Turning point: The Grizzlies were well on their way to running away with the game when Tony Allen accidentally tossed his warmup shirt onto the court in the third quarter. It sparked a 13-4 Thunder run after a technical, and the rest of the game came down to the final seconds.
That was ... fitting. This series was hard-fought and impossibly close every game, even as the Grizzlies seemed to wear the Thunder down. Oklahoma City fought to make crunch time tense, and Memphis proved to have just a bit more left in reserve. As the series went, so did this game, and it was a treat for fans.
Do The Thunder Need Less Durant?
The problem: Durant has been nothing short of fantastic throughout the postseason, making up for Westbrook's absence while helping his team play far more competitively than most expected. Durant's will and scoring talent has lifted his team to this level. He said before Game 4 that he could do more.
However, as crazy as it sounds, Durant doing less in Game 5 might help the Thunder get to Game 6.
This is not about Durant taking fewer shots. He's an amazing shooter who stands alone in his ability to get uncontested looks because of his height, length and ball skills as well as his special feel as a scorer. Rather, it's the shots he's taking that must improve.
Durant missed 17 shots in Game 4 (his 17th miss came on an insignificant final possession of the game), and on five of them he was falling down, slipping or just off-balance. In each instance, there were at least five seconds left on the shot clock.
Forget for a moment that every shot he takes is contested (most successfully by the equally long Tayshaun Prince). Indeed, Durant is so supremely talented that a contested jumper by him might be a better shot than an uncontested one from a teammate. However, a falling or slipping Durant is absolutely not a better shooter than an open teammate.
Heat In For A Fight
Series Of Events
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Knee-D To Know
A bone bruise limited Dwyane Wade to six points on 3-of-10 shooting in Game 4 after he aggravated the injury in the second quarter. Wade has been hindered by the knee for two months, and he's scoring 12.3 points per game in the postseason on 43.9 percent shooting along with 5.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 3.1 turnovers a contest. Perhaps of more concern, he's averaging half as many free throw attempts as he did in the regular season.
How bad is the injury? Does it jeopardize their quest to repeat? How will the Heat compensate? Here are five things to know:
1. This injury is different, perhaps less severe, than last playoffs' knee injury
It's admittedly hard to keep track of all the knick-knack injuries from Wade at this point in his career. Last postseason, Wade needed his knee to be drained in the second round against the Indiana Pacers and eventually underwent surgery to repair it in the offseason.