The Big Three
2012 NBA Finals
LeBron and Durant in Game 1
About a year ago today, LeBron and Miami faced Dirk and Dallas in the 2011 NBA Finals. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Miami, following the infamous “Decision” of that previous summer in which LeBron “took his talents to South Beach,” would walk away with their first championship under the reign of the Big Three. To call Dallas an underdog was a vast understatement. Aged and perhaps too reliant on their star power forward, Dallas nevertheless managed to shock the basketball world by becoming the 2011 NBA Champions. Now, for the second straight year, Miami is in the 2012 NBA Finals and despite many labeling the Thunder as the favorites, the pressure on Miami is even greater.
Miami, however, is a different kind of underdog than was Dallas. With experience in the finals that the Thunder don’t have, and a Big Three that (on paper) ought to be far ahead of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden, Miami doesn’t seem like the underdog. Yet the Thunder, after dropping Games 1 and 2 to the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, won four in a row and cruised to the Finals. This came while Miami struggled with the Boston Celtics and thus prompted many to label the Thunder as favorites. Miami faced elimination in Boston, down 3-2 going into Game 6, when they rebounded to win the next two and make the Finals by the skin of their teeth.
For comparison’s sake, Dallas beat the Thunder in the 2011 Western Conference Finals in five games but everyone thought they reached the end of the road in the finals. Understandably, Dallas, with Dirk playing out of his mind, defeated an inexperienced and too-young Thunder team. The 2011 Miami team differed greatly from the 2011 Thunder with stars in the primes and plenty of playoff experience and were thus the heavy favorites. This year, with Russell Westbrook having been the league’s best point guard, Kevin Durant affirming his place alongside LeBron and Kobe as the best players in the league, and James Harden drawing comparisons to Spurs’ great Manu Ginobli, the Thunder are a different team. Coupled with Miami’s Conference Finals struggles, the Thunder have been labeled the Finals favorites.
For too long, it has seemed like everyone from Miami fans, to Coach Erik Spoelstra, to LeBron himself have thought that simply because LeBron, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade were on one team, they would win, not only regular season games but titles. That they didn’t need cohesion or humility or indeed a point guard because other teams would simply roll over and concede victory. Yet Dallas didn’t do it last year and if Game 1 in 2012 proved anything, it was that the Thunder aren’t going to do it, as they battled back from a 13 point deficit to defeat Miami 105-94 last night. See the New York Times' game wrap-up here: www.nytimes.com/2012/06/13/sports/basketball/with-poise-and-power-thunder-rally-in-nba-finals-opener.html?ref=sports.This Miami team needs to embrace their underdog status and fight back throughout this series the way the Thunder fought back in Game 1; by regrouping at halftime and not giving up on each other or on the game. They need to rally when down in the series, as they are now, and repeat the perseverance they demonstrated in Boston in Game 6 of the Conference Finals.
If Miami wants to win this series, they need to drop the fanfare, tune out to all media outlets, and focus on their coach, their strategies, and their games. In short, while the Big Three must dominate, they also must act like any of the other 9 players on the Miami roster by bearing down and getting things done. There is a time for individual leaders but Miami will only win if they find the balance between supporting each other and encouraging dominance from the Big Three.