(RNN) – It's satisfying for a story to have one overall theme. A need to organize things into a category has spawned countless hours of analysis on movies, books, TV and events in everyday life.
Good triumphs over evil. Be careful what you wish for. Honesty is the best policy. Love conquers all. Don't join Kirk, Spock and Bones on an away team.
Modern sports are analyzed as much or more than anything else, to understand the whys and hows of who wins and who loses.
And in every matchup, we must decide who our protagonist is.
In team sports, we want role models and role players to root for, and players who are selfish and insufferable to root against.
Most important, we want our champions to be without flaws, or at least overcome their deficiencies. And we want the heel they defeat to have a single flaw that can be pointed to as the reason they fell short.
Add a dash of "Yo, Adrian, I did it," wrapped in a dramatic bow and then presented as the end we always should have expected.
But this NBA Finals is no fairy tale. And it's never that simple.
When the Heat took the lead in the best-of-seven series by three games to one, they put the Thunder in a sleeper hold they will not be escaping, as the story goes anyway.
All that's left is some flailing of the arms as OKC resists but eventually close its eyes on the season.
While the Thunder may still have something to say about that, there have been several themes found through the first four games that got them to the brink.
Some had been foreshadowed, while others were unexpected.
‘The mistakes of youth'
In hindsight, it's surprising this has not surfaced before now.
When the Thunder's four best players are 23 (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook) or 22 (James Harden, Serge Ibaka), bad fouls, errant passes and other mental errors at key points in games have to be expected.
However, after defeating San Antonio in the Western Conference finals, it looked as if this team had leaped the usual learning curve.
In Game 4, Westbrook made one of the most critical mistakes of the evening with 14 seconds left and his team down three.
The Heat only had five seconds left on the play clock, meaning the Thunder had a chance to get the ball back and tie the game. But instead of defending and preparing for a rebound, Westbrook fouled Mario Chalmers, giving him two free throws.
Chalmers hit them both, effectively ending the game. It marked the second game in a row someone on OKC fouled in the waning seconds when they didn't need to.
They have shown their inexperience on defense as well. Last game, Miami ran the same play several times in a row – Chris Bosh faked a screen for his teammate then slipped behind defenders to the basket.
OKC failed to pick up the play each time. Another late basket saw Dwyane Wade get past the man guarding him as he drove to the basket; he got an easy layup as three Thunder players nearby stood there watching.
‘The squeaky wheel gets the grease'
When Westbrook made the late foul in Game 4, it was a tough ending to a spectacular performance.
OKC'S point guard carried his team through the entire game, scoring 43 points with seven rebounds and five assists. It seemed the only thing he couldn't do that night was draw a foul call from the referees.
Despite 32 shot attempts, Westbrook only had three free throws for the game. He averaged more than twice that (6.3 FT attempts) during the season, even though he had more than one-third fewer field goal attempts (19.2).
That would be explainable if he shot jumpers all night, but a large portion of his buckets were made going directly into the teeth of the Heat defense.
On the other side, James got to the line eight times while Dwyane Wade got there nine. Again, the teams were separated by three points with seconds left.
Refs have always played favorites with star players in the NBA, so it's not unusual for guys like LeBron and Wade to get more calls and have fewer fouls called on them. The duo also communicates with the officials all game, talking during breaks about supposed missed calls and asking them to watch for this or that.
And on every questionable play, they call to them and point to the body part they claim got hit if a foul isn't called.
They are not the first guys to do it; Jordan, Kobe and many other greats were experts at the same ploy. And although it may not be the most entertaining aspect of the game, it gets the desired result.
Whether players should be rewarded for that, flopping, hooking arms or other tactics used to draw fouls, is immaterial. They are rewarded, and the Heat do it better.
‘Everyone deserves a second chance'
OK, so technically it's LeBron's third Finals, but he didn't have a real shot at winning with the Cavs in 2007.
The three-time MVP had developed a reputation as a frontrunner, a guy who could dominate most nights but couldn't come through late in a close game. He all but disappeared in key moments when his team needed him most (last year's Finals, the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals).
But after his play the last two rounds of the playoffs, it became much harder to question his heart or desire to win.
With five minutes remaining in Game 4, LeBron James had to leave because of cramps. Normally, this would lead to a lot of insults at his expense (jokes of questionable taste, but jokes nonetheless).
As his legs cramped to the point where he could barely walk, he stood up anyway, catching a pass and hitting a shot. After getting treatment on the bench for a minute or two, he came back in the game.
Still limping badly, he hit a 3-pointer to break the tie score with less than three minutes remaining.
He also has become more of a low-post defender and rebounder for his team. After a "who's that?" group of Miami big men failed to play well, the team changed their strategy and left LeBron to play power forward for long stretches, with Bosh moved to center.
The move has made the Heat a faster, more active team. And – thanks to James – they haven't missed a step on defense or given up an increased number of offensive rebounds and second chances.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, he was the first non-center to average 30 points and 10 rebounds through the first three games of the NBA Finals since John Havlicek in 1969. "Hondo" won eight championships with the Boston Celtics and was known as one of the most clutch players in the game.
It's doubtful the James Gang can fulfill his prediction and match Havlicek's total. However, closing out this series and hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy could once and for all help LeBron overcome the biggest knock on his Hall of Fame career.
Maybe he's the anti-hero in this story, and maybe he's not. But that's a pretty good ending.
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