The Clutch Heat?

James Nosek | Press Box Perspectives Editor/Columnist

It’s inevitable for a leader like LeBron James to be there when his team needs him the most. That’s been occurring in every game of this year’s Finals, as well as most of the playoffs. What’s even more beneficial is a leader who can not only do his job physically, through his athletic, and God-given talent, but show his self-composure when Kevin Durant and company are trying to put out their burning flame.

With 16 seconds left in game three James went to the free throw line to shoot two. In the previous game James had to fight off the blistering OKC crowd as he shot. This time, safely in the confines of the Heat’s home court, James could relax.

Before the referee gave him the ball, with the Heat up by three points, James stood off the line as he put both his arms horizontally beside him. The Miami fans were still electric. So, James started to lightly wave his arms up and down. Without moving his mouth, James was calming down the Miami faithful—although he pretty much was saying: “shut up, we got this.”

With no questioning taking place, the fans, the players and James himself were silent—calm as can be. To his own demise, James would miss the first free throw. In a three point game, a miss like that isn’t the most assuring sign, especially from James, who has been magnificent in the playoffs.

But he bounced back, drained the second free throw and secured a 91-85 win.

Phew.

This has been the reaction to the endings of the Heat’s last two games. Sure there not the cleanest wins in the world but remember, Rocky didn’t escape his victory over Apollo Creed without taking a few brutal shots to the head.

“It is not always going to go according to plan,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said about the game three win. “We have been knocked down to the canvas several times.”

Isn’t that what happened to Rocky, several times?

“Almost” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Sorry Thunder fans, but even though your team has a bit of fight in it, almost won’t cut it. Instead of OKC being the poised, calm team we saw in game one, the Heat have taken that role to a whole new level. And up 2-1 in the series, it’s getting more and more dangerous for the Thunder.

This time—despite giving up a solid double digit lead in game two and trailing by double digits in game three—the Heat are that poised, calm team that wants a ring more than anything.

Come on, this can’t be true. The team led by “Prince James,” “Le-Brick,” the “Chosen One,” is outplaying the more energetic Thunder in the final 12 minutes. You’re crazy.

Or not.

Game three was the perfect example. First, being down by 10 points in the third quarter didn’t help. But a LeBron James led charge helped the Heat get the lead back—which is something they have had most of the series—and eventually hold on to win the game.

The Thunder is a pesky little team—run by the pesky Russell Westbrook and the less pesky Kevin Durant.  After they lost the lead back to the Heat, they didn’t want to go away.

But away they went.

James’ 8 points in the final quarter—an and-one dunk, a layup and 4 free throws—was good enough for stat junkies, but even better for stopping those annoying OKC runs. And how did he, once again, take over the fourth quarter and win the game?

Being aggressive and making free throws.

This has been the formula for the whole Heat team the last two games. In game three, Miami shot 31 of 35 (89%) from the charity strike. James and Dwayne Wade in the fourth quarter have been doing what they do best: slashing towards the rim. And when two of the best scorers in the NBA are also great passers, other Heat players can contribute as well—hence why Chris Bosh stepped up in the final quarter, despite only scoring 10 points for the game.

Then on the defensive side of things, it was simply too much heat to handle for the Thunder—the 9 turnovers in the second half can speak for that. The Heat’s defense is what helped them climb back from 10 down, and finish the game the highest note possible—with their D causing the Thunder to force up bad, rushed shots in the final possessions.

The Heat is now two games away from raising their second NBA Championship banner in the rafters of The American Airlines Arena. But as we know, being up 2-1 doesn’t bring up the fondest of memories for Heat fans. Remember last year? Miami was up 2-1 on the Dallas Mavericks.

We all know how that series ended: with major fan disappointment and careers questioned.

But as we have learned this Finals go-around, the Miami Heat likes to do things different. They don’t want to complete the course straight through—they like to make things interesting. So, maybe their formula to winning a title is two years in the making, not the typical one year.

Think about it, what if Rocky would have beaten Apollo in the first movie? The rest of the series would have been disappointing, and much less memorable.

The Final Nugget

Of the previous 34 NBA Finals to be tied at 1-1, the game three winner has won the title 29 times.

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