Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder are a loss away from losing… (Larry W. Smith / EPA )
The Oklahoma City Thunder is facing elimination for the first time in the 2012 postseason, down three games to one after the Miami Heat's 104-98 victory Tuesday in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and company cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs basically unchallenged, sweeping the defending champion Dallas Mavericks in the first round and needing just five games to knock off the Lakers in the second round.
Their only trouble came in the Western Conference finals against the surging San Antonio Spurs, who had won 18 straight going into the series. But after losing the first two games in San Antonio, the Thunder quickly regained form and won four straight to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in team history.
So if Oklahoma City could rally like that against the Spurs, surely the team can win three straight against the Heat, who struggled against seemingly inferior teams on the road to the finals. All OKC has to do is win Thursday in Miami, then its smooth sailing with the last two games back at home. Right?
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the Heat appear to be on a mission after being embarrassed by the Mavericks in last year's finals. After all, this superteam was constructed to win championships.
Writers from around Tribune Co. will discuss the Thunder's chances of coming back against Miami to claim the NBA title. Check back throughout the day for their responses and join the conversation by voting in the poll and leaving a comment of your own.
[Updated at 11:38 p.m.:
Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times
History says no, and I agree.
There have been 30 teams that have been down 3-1 in the NBA Finals, and not one has ever gone on to win the championship.
The Thunder won't break that streak.
But really, it's more about the Heat than the Thunder.
Miami is ready for this, having learned from last year's painful loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals.
The experience that the Heat gained, that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the rest of that team suffered through, has made them a supremely confident bunch when they face adverse situations during the course of a game.
The Thunder is just starting to see what those moments feel like, and that's why Oklahoma City will watch the Miami Heat be crowned the 2011-12 NBA champions.
Steve Gorten, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Yes, the Thunder can do what no team has ever done in the NBA Finals and come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the championship. Will it happen? For the 31st time, no.
Miami is capable of losing three straight games -- it happened in the previous playoff series, versus the Celtics. And because of the 2-3-2 format, it's completely conceivable that OKC wins both games on its home court if it can simply survive Game 5 in Miami.
But it won’t happen. James Harden hasn't pulled a disappearing act like this since the NCAA regional in Miami with Arizona State. The Heat's supporting cast has proved better. And the Heat’s experience, composure and resolve -- all lacking against Dallas last season -- have been the difference at the end of games in a tight series. The Thunder won't suddenly be able to manufacture that for three straight games.
K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune
The Thunder is done. Surprisingly, the team's youth and inexperience are playing a factor for all the wrong reasons. They are blowing defensive assignments and fouling when unnecessary. Russell Westbrook's brain cramp to seal Game 4 is the equivalent of forgetting how many outs there are in baseball.
Before the series, the Thunder's edges in size and point guard seemed to tilt the series OKC's way, particularly because the stars would offset. However, Mario Chalmers has played better than advertised, and the Thunder's big men haven't established enough of an edge. Anyone seen Kendrick Perkins lately?
Throw in big-play moments from the Heat's Big Three and a turn-back-the-clock series from Shane Battier and this series is over.]