When we watched Game 3 of the NBA Finals, three things really jumped out at us in the closing minutes: first, James Harden made two very costly mistakes.
Second, the primary difference between Michael Jordan and LeBron James is that if Jordan was ever scared - and we don't think he was - he never showed it. As great as he is, as wildly gifted as he is, we don't think James fully believes in himself. Anxiety is constantly riding shotgun with this guy.
And third, as much as anyone, Shane Battier won this game for Miami.
Why would we say that? Because when Miami was in danger with just over a minute left, Battier did two very key things: first, with the Heat nursing a three point lead with 1:07 or so left, Battier, while fighting with Kendrick Perkins under the basket, and despite falling backwards, tipped the ball into the hands of LeBron James, who came down and took a timid, distinctly un-Mikeish shot which didn't take advantage of his remarkable set of advantages - size, strength, quickness.
When the Thunder came back to their end, Russell Westbrook took a foolish three pointer - they could have gotten a better shot with nine seconds left - and Battier nabbed the board (by design or not, he threw it not to James, who was wide open behind him, but to Dwyane Wade, who was much less so).
James got the ball in the halfcourt and nearly lost it again to James Harden, who was whistled for blocking.
James missed his first but did put the Heat up by four on his second.
What Miami clearly needed last season they have now - a smart, versatile veteran who is willing to do the things his team needs without worrying about getting the credit.
James, Wade and Chris Bosh are the names everyone talks about, but Battier is the guy pushing that team towards greatness.
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