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NBA Finals notebook

MVP clear choice

James’s numbers difficult to deny

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / June 22, 2012
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MIAMI - To no one’s surprise, Heat star LeBron James was voted the MVP of the Finals, with Celtics great Bill Russell at AmericanAirlines Arena on Thursday night to present the award named in Russell’s honor.

James averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 7.4 assists in the series. As for Finals MVPs, you have to go back to 1997 to find the closest numbers to James’s, when Michael Jordan averaged 32.3 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists in a six-game series against the Jazz as the Bulls won their fifth title.

James said last year’s playoffs proved to be too stressful, and this time around he sought to alleviate some of that stress. He had been reading the “Hunger Games’’ series before games.

“It just slows my mind down, it just gives me another outlet,’’ he said before the Heat’s 121-106 victory in Game 5. “Throughout the playoffs, all you think about is basketball. All you want to do is play basketball. But at the same time, it can become a lot. It can come to a point where it’s overloading to the mind, and you think about it too much. It’s hard to get away from it because you’re playing every other day, you talk about it every single day, you prepare every single day.’’

Perkins struggled

Thunder center Kendrick Perkins had just 2 points and four rebounds in 19 minutes and 45 seconds in Game 5, and his numbers for the Finals were similarly low. He averaged just 4.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in the Finals . . . The Heat became the third team to sweep the middle three games at home in the 2-3-2 format. The Pistons took all three from the Lakers in 2004, as did the Heat against the Mavericks in 2006 . . . Heat coach Erik Spoelstra tied team president Pat Riley’s franchise record with his 34th postseason win. He is 34-22, while Riley was 34-36 . . . The four-game losing streak that Oklahoma City finished the season with was its longest of the season. The Thunder had dropped three straight games - to Memphis, Miami, and Indiana - from April 2-6.

Harden off target

The Thunder spent the 48 hours between games trying to get James Harden back into a rhythm after a miserable two-game stretch during the Finals.

In Games 1, 3, and 4, Harden was 6 for 26 from the field, and his 17-point first half in Game 2 was followed by just 4 points in the second half.

With Kevin Durant often in foul trouble and Russell Westbrook erratic, the Thunder have desperately needed the Sixth Man of the Year to produce, but he struggled, especially in Game 4.

Harden also entered Thursday night’s game with a bruised shooting hand. He averaged 16.8 points during the regular season, but only 12.4 on 37.5 percent shooting in the Finals. In Game 5, Harden shot 5 for 11 and scored 19 points.

No big changes

Don’t expect many changes for the Heat next season, as most of their players are signed for 2012-13. Obviously, the Big Three - James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh - are locked up, but so are Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, Shane Battier, and James Jones.

As for the Thunder, Nazr Mohammed and Derek Fisher will be unrestricted free agents, and the club has to decide whether to sign Harden to a long-term extension. Harden’s struggles during the Finals may have hurt his chances at a maximum contract.

Also, the Thunder and coach Scott Brooks have yet to agree on a contract extension.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe.

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