Up 3-1, the Miami Heat have a commanding lead on the Oklahoma City Thunder. And the Heat are on the cusp of victory with game five kicking off tonight at 7 p.m. in Miami. In the history of the NBA, no team that has gone down 1-3 in a Finals series has ever come back to win that series.
So, with history on their side, it's time to start assuming that the Heat have won the championship, right? Well, not quite so fast. The Thunder are a more than capable team, and they won the first game in the series in a manner that most pundits termed convincing at bare minimum.
The Thunder's core of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have traded off between dominating performances, but the third member of their triumvirate, James Harden, has been lackluster—to say the least—for the duration of the Finals. His defense has been relentless, which perhaps explains the anemic performance on offense, but that doesn’t justify much, at least in the eyes of Oklahoma City fans.
Winning in Miami has not been an easy task for the Thunder, which had a significant lead in game three—nine points, on two separate occasions, but lost a wire-to-wire outing in game four. They'll have to muster the strength to not only hold a lead, but to do so at the end of the game in Miami at least once, in order to squeeze out a return home for the possibility of game six—much less force a game seven.
The statistical possibility of the Thunder mounting a comeback aside, there are serious repercussions to the idea of LeBron James winning his first championship. The laughable which critics love to throw in his face upon his yearly exit from the playoffs will stop being evidence of his supposed crimes and will start to look like eerie prescience from a phenomenal talent. The collection of superstars in South Beach will no longer look like greedy millionaires, but rather basketball players mature enough to put ego aside and play together. Most importantly, LeBron James will no longer have the strike of, "He doesn't have a ring." Most all-time greats in the NBA have championship rings, and it’s bizarre to think of the most talented player of our generation as not having one, not being capable of getting one.
That time period is almost through. Maybe the Thunder have a last gasp in them. Maybe they pull together. Maybe James Harden comes out and plays the game of his life. But even given the best possible outcome for a Thunder fan in game five, the odds and the historical record both say that the Heat will win the NBA Finals. Get ready for the reign of King James.