The Thunder were also down 2-1 in the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs before winning three straight games to clinch the series. And in last year’s NBA Finals the Heat failed to capitalize after taking a 2-1 lead over the Dallas Mavericks, which ultimately cost them a championship after Dallas rattled off three straight wins.
Every game in the Finals is crucial, but a series-swaying win in Game 4 has proven to be pivotal. Something both teams know all too well. The winner of this game is going to take control of the series.
The Heat cannot let the Thunder hang around and stretch the series beyond six games or risk repeating what happened in 2011. On the other hand, Oklahoma City can’t drop this game and go down 3-1. That’s a hole that even this explosive squad can’t dream of getting out of.
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Fla.
When: Tuesday, June 19 at 9:00 p.m. EDT
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Players to Watch
Chris Bosh has played admirably despite missing nine games this postseason. Since his return in Game 5 against the Boston Celtics, he has failed to score more than 20 points in a game. Bosh has also only gotten two double-doubles since coming back into the rotation.
However, the good news is those two double-doubles came in the last two games of the NBA Finals. Bosh appears to have found a stride in his rebounding game in the absence of his offense. So far he is only averaging 12 points this series, which is a noticeable dip from his regular season average of 18 points per game.
He needs to get his offense back on track in order for the Heat to close out the Thunder.
“If anyone doubts what level of impact Bosh has on this Heat team, just look to how the series against the Celtics turned in Miami’s favor once he returned from that ab injury. Bosh’s ability to step out and hit jumpers, get to the rim and make frequent trips to the free throw line will be huge in his matchup with OKC’s bigs. Bosh’s play will determine the impact James and Dwyane Wade have on both ends. “
For the Thunder, James Harden needs to step his game up in a big way. He was the model of consistency in the regular season as well as in the first three rounds of the playoffs, but playing against the Heat has him rattled.
So far in this series his stat line reads 5 PPG 3 AST O REB in Game 1, 21 PPG 2 AST 4 REB in Game 2 and 9 PPG 6 AST 6 REB in Game 3.
In order for the Thunder to regain their hold on the series Harden needs to get back to the all around game that has made him so successful this season. If the Sixth Man of the Year can’t create shots for others and get his offense rolling again the Thunder have no chance of winning Game 4.
There’s no question the people want to see Juwan Howard ball out against the Thunder’s front line, but head coach Erik Spoelstra seems hell bent on denying us of this pleasure.
Alas, we’ll just have to settle for LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant.
Both of these two small forwards have played big for their teams throughout the playoffs and it seems as if they have saved the best for this series. Neither one has been able to stop the other consistently when they go head-to-head, but in order to take control of the series somebody has to slow down.
Durant gets in range as soon as he passes the half court line and ultimately the only person that can stop him, is himself. He’s shooting over 50 percent from the field against Miami to go along with his 31 point per game. Durant hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down despite having James guard him for large minutes.
Miami hasn’t stopped Durant from scoring, but it has done an excellent job taking away his teammates. In this series Durant is only averaging 1.7 assists. On the opposite end James is averaging four assists a game; which will prove to be the defying factor in this matchup.
Heat 102, Thunder 97
Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com