The LeBron James-led Miami Heat created a lot of enemies when they publicly boasted about bringing multiple NBA titles to South Beach. On Thursday night, they delivered.
Game 5 was never in doubt. Even before the start, the media gathered around James’s locker in what was described as an “eerie silence.” It wouldn’t stay quiet for long.
The home of the Heat rocked from the opening tipoff, as James would tally 26 points to go with 11 boards and 13 assists for his eighth career playoff triple-double in a 121-106 dismantling of the Oklahoma City Thunder, capping a four-game streak as the Heat won the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
For James, who had been named the league’s most valuable player in the regular season, the five-game series was sweet redemption. With an average of 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists, James was a unanimous choice for the Bill Russell trophy as the playoff MVP.
“It’s the happiest day of my life,” James said. “It’s a dream come true.”
Guard Dwyane Wade echoed the sentiment, and showed how they used their loss in last year’s finals as fuel for their championship run. “We had so much pain, so much hurt, so much embarrassment from last season that from Christmas Day we were on a mission.”
Wade’s contribution was a quiet 20 points, but was a monster under his own basket with three blocks and six defensive rebounds. Mike Miller had a game for the ages off the bench with 23 points, including seven threes, and five boards.
Reading Twitter and Facebook postings prior to game time, few thought the Thunder would lose a fourth straight game. As it turned out, the young guns of OKC never got into the swing of things.
Miller summed it up during an on-court interview at halftime. “They have to double LeBron; they have to double D-Wade.” That tactic left all kinds of room open for Miller to get free looks all game long, and he took advantage.
With three minutes remaining, the hug-outs began along the Heat sideline as the Big Three of James, Wade and Chris Bosh came out of the game and the likes of Juwan Howard went in. The roar that went up in American Airlines Arena told the baskeball world: “We got this.”
At the final buzzer, James sought out OKC forward Kevin Durant and they held each other in a bear hug for several seconds. Later on, Durant hugged his mother like he never wanted to let her go. On the other side of the arena, James reflected on the significance of the victory.
“It means everything… I made a difficult decision to leave Cleveland, but I understood what my future was about.”
The Heat are now the first team in NBA history to win the title after trailing in three different postseason series. As someone posted on Twitter: “The smile on LeBron’s face says it all. He’s free. Haters to the left. Forever.”
Good job, Miami Heat. Good effort.