In this series' close games, the Heat and the Thunder have won or lost by their supporting players.
When people talk about basketball, they're usually talking about superstars. The stars are the reason we watch the game. When they win, we sing their praises; when they lose, we proclaim their demise. Throughout the four games of the NBA Finals, which the Miami Heat are leading, 3-1, over the Oklahoma City Thunder, the larger conversation has swirled around four names: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the Heat and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the Thunder.
Of course, we should be talking about these players. Their work on the court has been exemplary, almost amazingly consistent. I'm not sure I've seen another Finals series in which all the superstars have played like such superstars. James, for all his perceived faults, is playing the postseason best basketball of his career, putting up solid numbers night after night with no sign of waning. He can still be infuriating to watch—his injury late in Game 4 was more a Paul Pierce than Willis Reed moment, as some were calling it on Twitter—but it's getting harder and harder to ignore his mastery of the court. Wade, whose game isn't as flashy as his running-mate's, is still putting up consistently great numbers even if his shooting is up-and-down, and his passing has been undervalued in the series so far. And while it's easy to bicker about Durant's foul trouble early in the series, the man often looks like a magician when the ball is in his hands and he's had brief stretches in every game, often in the fourth quarter, where it seems he can't miss a shot. Let's not forget Russell Westbrook who, in a 43-point Game 4 performance, played single-handily the best game of his career. It was a performance as wondrous and baffling as Rajon Rondo's earlier in the playoffs against the Heat, an intense and exciting display of talent that will surely go down as one of the defining moments of his career.