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LeBron James: ‘I played with a lot of hate’ last year

“It’s about damn time.”

That’s what LeBron James said after winning his first NBA title on Thursday night. The words weren’t politically correct, but they were fitting.

Few players in the history or professional sports have taken the kind of beating from the media and fans like LeBron James has. He allowed the media’s criticism to affect his style of play last year, and even admitted before Game 5 of the NBA Finals that he was “immature” last season.

He went even further in his interview after winning his first NBA title on Thursday, admitting that his game changed because he was out to prove his critics wrong.

“I just went back to the basics,” LeBron said. “I knew what got me to this point, and that was hard work and dedication. I never had to prove anything to anyone. In my first seven years, I just went out and let the game take care of itself. And last year, I tried to prove something to everybody.

“I played with a lot of hate, and that’s not the way I play the game of basketball. I play with a lot of love, and a lot of passion, and that’s what I got back to this year.”

James recorded a triple-double in Game 5, won Finals MVP, and had a brilliant postseason from the first series to the last. Maybe losing last year helped shape him and led him to win his first NBA title.

Now that he’s won one, maybe he won’t look back.

Kevin Durant consoled by family after losing NBA Finals (Video)

Kevin Durant was consoled by his family after losing the NBA Finals on Thursday night to the Heat. The Thunder lost in five games, and were defeated in four straight contests after winning Game 1 of the series.

Durant’s final numbers in Game 5 were solid — 32 points and 11 rebounds — but he was outplayed by Heat superstar LeBron James for the series.

Durant finished second to LeBron in MVP voting, and was runner-up in the NBA to James’ Heat. We know Kevin said he was sick of coming in second for everything, but he’ll have to endure another year of waiting for redemption.

Just remember, KD, Chris Bosh was in the same spot as you last year, and now look at where he is. There will be plenty of opportunities in the future for you to get your first ring.

Video via Eye on Basketball

Russell Westbrook doesn’t care about media, won’t let it dictate his play

Russell Westbrook has been the media and fans’ whipping boy whenever anything goes wrong with the Thunder.

The criticism of Westbrook goes back to last season when the Thunder lost to the Mavericks in the playoffs. Many observers were watching the All-Star point guard play for the first time, and they were aghast that he didn’t play like a typical point guard. They couldn’t (and some still can’t) comprehend that Westbrook is an elite athlete whose specialty is getting to the hole and scoring, not passing.

Whenever things went wrong for OKC in the playoffs last year, the media and fans blamed Westbrook for not passing to Kevin Durant enough. The criticism has followed the same pattern this postseason.

After Oklahoma City’s Game 2 and 3 losses in the Finals, there were frequent calls for Westbrook to change the way he was playing. People lost their minds and forgot that Westbrook’s style helped the Thunder achieve the third-best record in the NBA and reach the NBA Finals. Once the team began losing, the media needed to point the finger, and Westbrook became the punching bag like usual. Good thing for Oklahoma City that Russell is above all that.

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Kendrick Perkins questions Thunder coaching after Game 4 loss

If LeBron James doesn’t get his ring this year, he may never get it. With a Game 4 win over the Thunder on Tuesday night, the Heat took a commanding 3-1 NBA Finals lead and are now one win away from the championship. Since winning Game 1 in impressive fashion, Oklahoma City has not been the same team. They came out firing in the first quarter Tuesday night but were completely outplayed the rest of the way. After the game, Kendrick Perkins implied that one of the main issues in Game 4 was coaching.

“I just don’t understand why we start out the first quarter the way we did, with the lineup that we had, and all of a sudden we change and adjust to what they had going on,” Perkins said according to Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports. “So, they won the last three quarters, and that’s what happened.”

Coaching was certainly an issue among many others. Miami came out flat and was able to adjust. The Thunder came out with Russell Westbrook absolutely scorching, and it remained that way for the rest of the game. Despite his 43 points, the Thunder could not manage a win.

You can blame coaching or blame Westbrook for his incredibly dumb foul toward the end of the game, but the bottom line is the Heat played much more balanced than the Thunder. Westbrook scored 43 and Kevin Durant scored 28. The rest of the team combined for 27 points. On the other side, Miami got 26 points from LeBron, 25 from Dwyane Wade, 25 from Mario Chalmers, and 13 from Chris Bosh. The Heat’s starting five was just plain better. Now, Oklahoma City fans are left hoping that LeBron guy that turtles in big games really does exist.

Photo credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Russell Westbrook commits costly, boneheaded late-game foul in Game 4 (Video)

Russell Westbrook had himself a terrific, unstoppable Game 4, scoring a game-high 43 points on 20-of-32 shooting in over 45 minutes of play. But as brilliant as he was in the first 47 minutes and 46 seconds of the game, his crucial foul on Mario Chalmers with 13.8 seconds left all but ended any chance for the Thunder to pull off a last-minute comeback.

The Thunder were down three with a jump ball about to commence on the Heat’s offensive end of the floor. 17.3 seconds were left in the contest and Miami had just five seconds to shoot. The ball bounced around before Chalmers finally secured it. Almost instantly, Westbrook swooped in and inexplicably fouled Chalmers, leading Jeff Van Gundy to squeal on the broadcast, “Why are they fouling!?” With the shot clock ticking down and the game still very much in reach, it was the question we all had.

“Just a miscommunication on my part,” Westbrook said after the game. “Nothing I can do about it now.”

Chalmers went on to nail both ensuing free throws, effectively sealing the game. The Heat held on for a 104-98 win and now have a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

Video via Eye on Basketball

LeBron James gets leg cramps, sits out end of Game 4 (Video)

LeBron James missed the end of Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Thunder on Tuesday because of leg cramps he suffered toward the end of the fourth quarter. James went down on a drive to the basket with 5:15 left after his legs clearly gave out. He returned 1:05 later and hit a big three to break a 94-all tie, but then he exited the game in the final minute after his legs gave him problems once again.

According to Brian Windhorst, LeBron was bothered by cramps at halftime, played through them in the third quarter, and could no longer bear it in the fourth.

Had the Heat lost the game, there’s no doubt James’ critics would have said he faked the injury so that he wouldn’t have to be on the floor during crunch-time. I’m sure there would have been jabs about Michael Jordan never getting cramps, either.

H/T Eye on Basketball for the video

LeBron James not called for foul on Kevin Durant floater at end of Game 2 (Video)

The Miami Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-96 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night to even their Best of 7 series at 1. Although the free throw attempts for both teams were nearly even — 26 for OKC, 25 for Miami — it seemed like every close call went against the Thunder. Kevin Durant was whistled for his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter (and Scott Brooks wisely let him continue playing), James Harden got called for an offensive foul late, and Derek Fisher got whistled on a loose ball when nothing should have been called. But the most controversial call was the referees’ decision not to give LeBron James a foul for his contact with Kevin Durant in the final 11 seconds of the game.

LeBron appeared to make contact with Durant and didn’t get called for the foul when he easily could have been. Durant still had a clean look at the basket and missed, and then LeBron was fouled and sent to the line.

As much as the referees seemed to be in the Heat’s favor during Game 2, what shouldn’t be overlooked is that Durant still missed the shot while LeBron made both of his free throws after being fouled. I know I was expecting him to miss one of two and see the Thunder hit a 3 to tie the game, but it didn’t happen. James was 12-12 from the line. That was impressive.

H/T I am a GM for the vid