When coaches ask their players to give 110 per cent, it must make math teachers upset. You really can't give 110 per cent. Per cent means per 100, so 100 out of 100 is the best we can hope for. English teachers, similarly, must have a visceral reaction when they hear that some player, say LeBron James, is very unique. Unique means one of a kind. Your e-mail address has to be unique in order for you to receive electronic mail. It could not get any more unique than it already is.
I think the Thunder will win tonight's game. This prediction should be what any bettor needs to put down a fortune on the Heat. My predictions are notoriously incorrect. In the summer of 1980 I was flabbergasted when the Republicans nominated Ronald Reagan. "Who will vote for him?" I asked anyone who was in my orbit. In the summer of 1976 I made what turned out to be a similarly inaccurate prediction of which I was certain.
So, the disclaimer regarding my fortune telling is out there, but here's the rationale. I do not think the Heat players will play close to their 100 per cent capacity tonight. The Heat have played three grueling games in a row and won each of them. They need only one more victory to be champions. I think whatever force compelled them to get close to 100 percent in the prior games will not be present tonight. The sense of urgency cannot be the same as what it has been. If they lose, they will still have two opportunities to prevail in games 6 and 7.
The Thunder on the other hand, must win. In addition to the victory what looms is the possibility that they will have home court advantage for games 6 and 7. The difference in the last two games came down to a couple of bonehead plays, the temporary disappearance of James Harden, a non foul on LeBron James at the end of game three, and some outstanding performances by Heat players. If the Heat take a little off the pedal, they may play at 90 per cent whereas the Thunder will play at 95.
It is one thing for a Heat player to say, we need the game because we don't want to go to Oklahoma City, and a Thunder player feeling that he needs the game. That difference can account for a victory. A similar phenomenon occurred in game 6 of the preceding Celtics/Heat series. All the Celtics needed to do was win at home to clinch the series and eliminate Miami. But while they knew in their heads the game was important, the Heat knew in their hearts that if they were to lose they would be answering questions that they did not want to answer during the post game show. The Celtics knew they would have another chance to win, the Heat knew that this was it. They played at 95%. The Celtics left their game at the pre game meal.
If the Heat/Thunder were not evenly matched, then a 90 per cent effort from one team could overcome a 95 per cent effort from the other. But the Heat are not that much better than the Thunder. Of course if Battier and Chalmers and Bosh or someone else unlikely continue to bang down threes like they are layups, the Heat will win. But I don't believe this will occur.
By the way, this series has been unique. Every series and game would have to be. Which is a reason why many read the sports pages before any other section of a newspaper.