Miami Thrice: Heat Take 3-1 Finals Lead With 104-98 Win

The Thunder opened Game 4 with a bang but the Heat rallied back and took control late -- despite losing LeBron James late in the fourth quarter with cramps. Miami is now one win from the title after its 104-98 victory.

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NBA Finals: Odds Of A Thunder Comeback Are Not Good

The Oklahoma City Thunder haven't been without opportunities over the past few games, but the Miami Heat have been able to close games and take a 3-1 advantage in the seven-game series. The odds of beating the Heat aren't good with that deficit according to history, either -- especially in the NBA Finals.

There are obviously quite a few factors that need to be weighed when deciding the exact odds of a Thunder comeback and, luckily, there are smarter people out there than yours truly that have already done that research. The always excellent Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference.com wrote on the topic for ESPN earlier this year, concluding that it's at best going to be an uphill battle.

In situations like this, the coaching cliché is to take things "one game at a time," and that's actually pretty good advice. Historically, teams in a 3-1 hole have come back to win the series just eight times in 186 chances, a rate of 4.3 percent. In fact, just battling valiantly and forcing a sixth game is a big step -- teams down 3-1 have made it to Game 6 just 38.5 percent of the time since 1956. And there's certainly pride in merely living to fight another day.

Worse yet for the Thunder is that, thanks to the Finals 2-3-2 format, they'll have to attempt to force a sixth game away from the friendly confines of home. The odds of that happening historically, according to Paine, are even worse.

Historically, teams facing a 3-1 hole on the road have forced a sixth game just 29 times in 125 chances (23 percent). The simple knowledge that they must play Game 5 away from home implies just a 5-6 percent chance that both teams' seasons survive another night.

Oklahoma City's already beat the odds once when they showed enough resiliency to beat the San Antonio Spurs earlier this postseason, but can lightning really strike twice for the Thunder? We'll find out Thursday night!

For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula Is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For Thunder news and notes, visit Welcome To Loud City. And for news, analysis and everything else revolving around the NBA Playoffs, be sure to visit SB Nation's dedicated NBA hub.

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LeBron James, Low-Post Beast

LeBron James has been criticized over the year for not being more of a post-up threat. In Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals, he put those concerns to rest once and for all.

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Apocalypse Now: LeBron James And The Heat Are One Win Away

The Heat delivered again and again in Game 4, LeBron James is one win away from his first NBA championship, and after three straight victories, there's not much left to argue about here.

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NBA Finals: Oklahoma City Thunder's Starting Lineup Struggled Again

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat have already put together four games of exciting basketball, but the Thunder are on a bit of a dry spell when it comes to winning in the NBA Finals. There are plenty of reasons for that, of course, but one of the more talked about opinions is in regards to Thunder coach Scott Brooks and his rotations.

Oklahoma City has decided to stick with the same starting lineup, keeping Sixth Man of the Year winner James Harden on the bench to start the game. There are reasons for this, but the cons seem to outweigh the pros considering the Thunder are now in a 3-1 deficit with win-or-go-home consequences for the remainder of the seven-game series.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were able to get some buckets early on Tuesday night, helping the Thunder to a modest five-point advantage before Harden was subbed in for Thabo Sefolosha, but the starting lineup still came out even when on the floor together in Game 4. The reason for that, unfortunately for Oklahoma City, is that the starters began the second half seven points in the hole before Harden was subbed in to stop the bleeding.

The people looking at this situation with the glass half full can easily point out that Oklahoma City has still been in the thick of things in the final minutes of each game, which is true, but they've still been on the wrong side of the decision when looking up at the scoreboard. And, if it happens again, they'll be home fishing.

For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula Is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For Thunder news and notes, visit Welcome To Loud City. And for news, analysis and everything else revolving around the NBA Playoffs, be sure to visit SB Nation's dedicated NBA hub.

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Thunder Vs. Heat: LeBron James Overcame Cramps To Help Heat Miami Top Thunder

Michael Jordan had the flu game once upon a time, and though cramps are barely in the same ballpark as the flu, Miami Heat superstar LeBron James may have come one step closer to MJ's legacy with his performance on Tuesday night.

That isn't the opinion of yours truly, but there are some very smart people in the basketball media comparing the night James overcame leg cramps to score 26 points and dish out 12 assists as he led Miami to within just one game of an NBA championship. Chief among those in the media making the comparison is Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen.

They will enter Game 5 here Thursday with a 3-1 lead, with thanks to a couple of point guards who rarely are allowed to handle the ball, and with thanks as well to the last two years that have galvanized Miami to deal with the leg cramps that brought James down Tuesday night. After he lost his balance and watched his teammates stop Derek Fisher from turning his turnover into a free basket, James pushed himself up, caught a pass from Mario Chalmers and finished it off the backboard. Then he limped back downcourt and 20 seconds later was hobbling to the bench for a time out, during which he laid himself out along the ground in pain.

Someday James may be able to look back on this ending as the strangest kind of favor to his damaged reputation. Michael Jordan overcame the flu once to win a game in the Finals, and maybe, in less dramatic tones, they'll talk about the night James recovered from painful leg cramps to make a huge three that finished the big turn he has been navigating for himself and his vilified franchise over this long redemptive season.

This seems more along the lines of the Paul Pierce wheelchair game than the Michael Jordan flu game, personally, but there's no doubt LeBron played a very good game that deserves to be remembered somewhere in history. Unless the Heat end up losing their next three games, of course -- then LeBron's legacy will never change.

For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula Is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For Thunder news and notes, visit Welcome To Loud City or check out SB Nation Kansas City. And for news, analysis and everything else revolving around the NBA Playoffs, be sure to visit SB Nation's dedicated NBA hub.

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NBA Finals: Russell Westbrook's Lone Blemish Bludgeons Thunder Chances

Russell Westbrook was simply outstanding in Tuesday night's Game 4 of the NBA Finals for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He picks up quite a bit of criticism when he's off, but the point guard was anything but off as he kept OKC in the game on the homecourt of the Miami Heat.

Unfortunately, people are only going to remember Westbrook's big mistake at the end of the game, not the fact that he was keeping Oklahoma City in the game almost single-handedly with a total of 43 points, seven rebounds, five assists and just three turnovers.

Considering Westbrook was also knocking down jump shots aplenty, it was more than anyone could reasonably expect from one of the biggest enigmas currently playing basketball. Except then he made a terrible mental mistake ... and that'll be the thing that's talked about when the pundits weigh in on Game 4.

For those that were unable to watch the excellent game, SB Nation's own Welcome To Loud City detailed it in-depth in their recap of the game that ended with the Thunder in a 3-1 hole.

Alternatively, you might assign a mental statistical error to the entire Thunder team, who failed to recognize and comprehend a key jump ball situation with only 16 seconds to go. OKC, down three points, had just gotten a huge stop by forcing a Dwyane Wade shot that did not hit the rim. The ball was tied up, and so the rules governing the situation stated that if Miami won the jump, they would have 5 seconds on the shot clock to get up a shot.

Unfortunately, OKC either did not understand this rule or failed to properly inform everyone on the team about what they had to do. When Miami won the tip and Mario Chalmers corralled the ball deep in the corner, Westbrook trapped him and only needed to prevent him from getting up a shot. However, Westbrook thought the shot clock had reset on the possession, unnecessarily fouled Chalmers, and Chalmers' two free throws all but ended the game. It was a brutal ending to Westbrook's night, a night when he almost single-handedly kept his team in the game by scoring 43 overall and 17 points in the fourth.

One could probably put as much blame on the coaching staff as on Westbrook, considering that it should have been communicated to him that a foul was not needed. It happened, though, and ruined an otherwise stellar game in the process.

For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula Is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For Thunder news and notes, visit Welcome To Loud City. And for news, analysis and everything else revolving around the NBA Playoffs, be sure to visit SB Nation's dedicated NBA hub.

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VIDEO: Heat's Mario Chalmers, LeBron James Lead NBA Finals Game 4 Highlights

Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals on Tuesday was chock full of highlights, from Russell Westbrook shooting down everything that moves to Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James all nailing critical three-pointers.

In this video, SB Nation's Matt Ufford breaks down the highlights, stats and potential for the Thunder to come back and win three straight against the Heat.

Westbrook ended up with some of the best highlights of the game, shooting a ridiculous 62.5 percent from the floor in his 43-point outburst. But that mistake in the closing seconds will stick with him for a long time, especially if the Thunder lose the series. (It's worth noting, though, that even if Westbrook hadn't fouled, OKC would have needed a stop on that possession, a quick made three on the other end and another stop against Miami. The best-case scenario would have been overtime.)

Stay tuned for full Game 4 coverage at SBNation.com.

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James Harden Leaves Arena With Shooting Hand Bandaged, According To Reports

James Harden, who recorded his second consecutive 2-for-10 shooting performance on Tuesday night, may have an excuse for his sudden disappearing act. At least two members of the media reported on Twitter that Harden left Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena with his left (shooting) hand bandaged. From Paul Jones of NBA-TV Canada:

From Jorge Sedano of CBS Miami:

Oklahoma City Thunder Guard James Harden left the arena with what seemed to be some sort of injury. His left hand was wrapped heavily as he was leaving the arena. I don't want to speculate too much. But, could he have taken his cues from Amar'e Stoudemire.

Until more information is released, it's impossible to know the severity of Harden's apparent injury, when it was suffered and whether it's affecting his game.

But whether Harden has a physical ailment or not, one thing is certain: he has not been his usual self thus far against the Miami Heat. In 62 games during the regular season, Harden failed to crack double-digit scoring just four times. In Oklahoma City's entire playoff run, he's failed to reach that milestone three times -- all coming in the first four games of the NBA Finals.

For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula Is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For Thunder news and notes, visit Welcome To Loud City or check out SB Nation Kansas City. And for news, analysis and everything else revolving around the NBA Playoffs, be sure to visit SB Nation's dedicated NBA hub.

Check out the SB Nation Channel on YouTube

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Heat Vs. Thunder, 2012 NBA Finals Game 4: Miami Holds Strong, Picks Up 104-98 Victory Over Oklahoma City

The Miami Heat have taken a commanding 3-1 series lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder following Tuesday night's 104-98 victory. The game ended with plenty of drama, most especially because LeBron James experienced cramps and eventually left the game for good in the final two minutes. Dwyane Wade said LeBron "would be good" when asked about his condition immediately after the game ended.

LeBron hit a crucial three-pointer when he came back for a brief time after he left the court to be worked on. The shot broke a 94-94 tie and helped continue a 12-4 run that ended the game in the Heat's favor. LeBron fell one rebound short of a triple-double, scoring 26 points, dishing the ball out for 12 assists and grabbing nine rebounds.

Mario Chalmers and Wade each added 25 points while Chris Bosh put in 13 points. Chalmers was 9-of-15 from the field and sank three from beyond the arc.

The Thunder's Russell Westbrook provided a great performance in the losing effort, scoring 43 points on 20-of-32 shooting. Kevin Durant added 28 points, but no other Thunder player reached double-digit points.

The Heat can close out this series on Thursday at home when Game 5 takes place at AmericanAirlines Arena. ABC will have the game at 9 p.m. ET.

For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula Is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For Thunder news and notes, visit Welcome To Loud City or check out SB Nation Kansas City. And for news, analysis and everything else revolving around the NBA Playoffs, be sure to visit SB Nation's dedicated NBA hub.

Check out the SB Nation Channel on YouTube

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VIDEO: LeBron James, Cramps And All, Hits Crucial Three-Pointer

Sometime in the next 10-15 years, we may remember June 19, 2012 as the night LeBron James officially shattered the myth that he's not clutch. It won't be a fair assessment, because James' ability to produce when it matters most has always been more of a nuanced discussion than most have made it out to be. But sports isn't always logical; as much as we wish it's not about narrative, it's often about narrative.

With the Heat and Thunder tied at 96 late in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals, James had to leave the game after suffering a painful cramp in his leg. He sat out several possessions, and the Thunder tied the game. But James, undeterred, checked back in, knowing a win would essentially seal his first championship.

This was his first field goal attempt after coming back into the game.


In any other circumstance, this is a horrible shot. With the game tied, James stood well beyond the three-point line, not running any offense and not attacking the defense. If he misses this shot, he gets crucified. Instead, it was nothing but net, and the Heat regained the lead.

I guess that's a definition of clutch in its own way. James had the stones to take the shot, even though it was a terrible shot. He made it, and the Heat haven't trailed since.

For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula Is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For Thunder news and notes, visit Welcome To Loud City or check out SB Nation Kansas City. And for news, analysis and everything else revolving around the NBA Playoffs, be sure to visit SB Nation's dedicated NBA hub.

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LeBron James Experiences Cramps Late In 4th Quarter Vs. Thunder

LeBron James left Game 4 of the NBA Finals with cramps, but he didn't let that keep him out for long. He was back on the court just over a minute later, still limping a bit but coming up with a huge three-point shot .

LeBron experienced the cramps when he attempted a drive on the basket and fell to the ground, his left knee first hitting the floor. After a little bit he got back up, but eventually he had to motion to the bench and be taken out of the game. He went to the sidelines and had the trainers work on his quads and his knees.

Nothing is going to stop LeBron from winning this game, especially not cramps.

For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula Is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For Thunder news and notes, visit Welcome To Loud City or check out SB Nation Kansas City. And for news, analysis and everything else revolving around the NBA Playoffs, be sure to visit SB Nation's dedicated NBA hub.

Check out the SB Nation Channel on YouTube

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The Russell Westbrook Roller Coaster

He's not Kevin Durant, but he's not Allen Iverson, either. And that's what makes Russell Westbrook the most fascinating player in the NBA Finals so far.

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NBA Finals 2012, Heat Vs. Thunder Game 4: Game TIme, TV Schedule And More

Bad fouls crippled Oklahoma City in Game 3 and allowed the Miami Heat to overcome their jump shooting woes. Everyone has something to improve on heading into Game 4.

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