Westbrook's foul didn't decide Game 4

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Russell Westbrook's 43 points weren't enough to carry the Thunder to victory in Game 4.Is Russell Westbrook’s late-game mistake to blame for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Miami Heat?

The numbers show that Westbrook had a lot more to do with the Thunder being in the game than losing it.

Leading by three points with 17.3 seconds left, the Heat gained possession of a jump ball with the shot clock dwindling. Seemingly unaware of the situation, Westbrook fouled Mario Chalmers, who went on to make two free throws to put the game away. But would the outcome have been different if the Thunder had simply played defense? Probably not.

Based on similar situations in over 7,300 games in recent NBA history, the Heat had a 97 percent chance of winning once they won the jump ball. When Westbrook committed the foul, that number went up to 98, and it rose to 99 when Chalmers hit both free throws. If Oklahoma City had not fouled and prevented a made shot, the Heat’s chances would have dropped to 95 percent.

Even if the Thunder had forced a miss and gotten the rebound with eight seconds to go, the Heat would have won 91 percent of the time. So if everything had gone right for Oklahoma City, its chances of winning were only nine percent. While that is better than one or two percent, it was a longshot at best for the Thunder to emerge victorious, foul or not.

43+ Pts, 7+ Reb, 5+ Ast
NBA Finals Game

Prior to any of that going down, though, it was Westbrook who put his team in a position to be in a close game at the end. The point guard scored 43 points, a career playoff high and franchise NBA Finals record, and did so on an efficient 20-of-32 shooting. And with his team down four entering the fourth quarter, Westbrook scored 17 points in the final frame, the most fourth-quarter points by a losing player in the last 15 NBA Finals.

In addition to pouring in 43, Westbrook also had seven rebounds and five assists. In NBA history, the only other players to reach those totals in a Finals game are Jerry West, Rick Barry, John Havlicek, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal. In the Thunder’s biggest game of the season, he was their premier performer.

The Heat are on the brink of an NBA title, but a loss in Game 5 would significantly shift the series, giving home-court advantage back to the Thunder. A similar game from Westbrook Thursday night could do just that.