In my preview of game two I said that the Heat would have to attack the paint and get Bosh the ball on the block to win and that’s exactly what they did. You can tell from their first possession that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were going to spend the majority of their offensive possessions getting to the paint and attacking Oklahoma’s defenders.
In the first quarter the only deep jumpers that the Heat took were shot by Shane Battier on penetration from the Heat perimeter players. The Heat jumped out to an 18-2 lead mostly because of their ability to penetrate and get into the lane and get good shots. The Thunder got a lot of offensive rebounds because of the smaller lineup that the Heat had on the floor. Kendrick Perkins collected 6 total rebounds in the first quarter, but failed to capitalize on his 3 offensive rebounds as the Miami defender swarmed around him just as he got the ball in his possession. For the second game in a row the Heat jumped on the Thunder early and often getting to the basket, LeBron James scored 8 of his 32 in the first. James Harden settled OKC down scoring 10 of their last 13 points to cut the deficit to 27-15 at the end of the first.
The first quarter was something that Oklahoma City couldn’t rebound from. The Heat set the tone from the beginning from their aggressive style on offense. They also were much more engaged as a team defensively having active hands and getting their hands on a lot more basketballs. The Thunder’s domination in transition that set the tone in game one outscoring the Heat 24-4 was taken away only outscoring them 11-10. The lack of transition success for the Thunder can be attributed to far less quick long ranged jumpers by the Heat, as well as Miami sending 4-5 players back on defense after a shot to slow down the Oklahoma City.
The Heat not only were led by their three top players LeBron James (32), Dwyane Wade (24), and Chris Bosh (16), but Shane Battier chipped in with 17 points on 5-7 from the three point line which was the difference. The Miami Heat defeated the Thunder 100-96 in Oklahoma.
I thought offensively besides a slow start by Durant in the first that they got the shots that they wanted. James Harden picked up the slack for Durant so they didn’t really miss a beat there. The combination of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden scored 80 points, 17 more than their 63 points in game 1. There were a few factors in this loss for Oklahoma City. First off they need to manufacture as many easy points as possible. They are a jump shooting team from mid range + to the three point line. They don’t have a post player that can consistently score on the block. That means besides their three perimeter scorers of Durant , Harden, and Westbrook as well as Ibaka scoring on jump shots there needs to be other revenue streams of points manufactured. In game 1 they were +20 in transition points against the Heat which gave them al of the firepower they needed. In game 2 it was a different story with only a +1 in transition points. With Miami getting 48 points in the paint (8 more from game 1) as well as the Thunder’s drought in transition this game was an up hill battle. As good as their trio is, without a post scoring option even if its from one of them winning consistently in a 7 game series against a championship caliber team like Miami will be tough unless they can manufacture points in different ways besides jump shots in the half court. Another difference from game 1 to game 2 is that Oklahoma seemed to get their hands on less 50-50 balls than they did in game 1. Nick Collison was huge in game 1 scoring on a lot of energy and second chance points scoring 8 points and grabbing 10 rebounds where in game 2 he was held scoreless and grabbed only 3 rebounds.
Durant’s slow start had a lot to do with Miami’s run in the first half of play. He missed a lot of looks that in previous games he would have made giving the Heat a big advantage. Besides Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant there aren’t many other shot makers that a team could fear more in the past 20 years than Kevin Durant. His ability to make shots in the variety in which he does without question puts himself in the category as one of the best shot makers in NBA history. When a shot maker of his caliber gets into a slump the opponent must capitalize and that’s what Miami did. They knew if the game was close early that the young guns of the Thunder could pull away at anytime. It only takes one possession for Durant to heat up and since he was cold for most of the first half that Miami took advantage by being efficient on offense by attacking the paint.
There has been a lot said on the negative side of Russell Westbrook and his ability to play point guard in the last 12 hours or so. His 10-26 shooting obviously isn’t what one would want out of their point guard but he was one of the reasons why they stayed in the game early on. He made some big shots through the course of the game when other players such as Durant were struggling. I have a couple of things to say on this subject, first is I don’t get why people continue to think he is a point guard. Russell Westbrook is an explosive scorer that can make some point guard plays, but he is wired to score points and play in transition. He will never be that 15 point 11 assist pass first guard that people expect him to be. Russell Westbrook is very much like Dwyane Wade was early in his career. The Heat tried to play Wade at some point guard, but quickly figured out that he is better off of the ball than on it initially. The 26 shots that he took isn’t new to anyone either as he averages close to 20 attempts per game. Westbrook is an explosive talent that dominates the ball and can make plays with his ability to change speeds, play in transition, and by using his superior athletic ability. His shooting has improved and is a very good mid range to mid range + shooter as well as shows the ability to make deep 3 point shots. The negative comments about him not giving the ball to Durant and Harden not getting enough shots is shocking considering that Durant was cold early as well as both Harden and Durant taking as many or more shots than they usually get during games. I think this loss had more to do with Miami being engaged and OKC allowing themselves to get down so much so early as well as not making any big run at the lead until well into the third quarter.
I expect Scott Brooks to use his bigs more rolling hard to the rim on screen and roll and dribble hand offs. They need to incorporate them more in the game for easy baskets, if Miami will continue to send 4-5 players back to stop OKC’s transition game. I don’t think OKC can rely on the 3 point shot to manufacture the extra points that they need as if they are cold from there can produce transition opportunities for the Heat. I think by rolling their big men and being aggressive throwing them the basketball it will force Miami to rotate their help defenders off of Durant, Sefolosha, Harden, and Westbrook to open shots and drives for them. Oklahoma also needs to find a way to score on offensive rebounding opportunities. In game 1 they scored on second chance points a lot more opening up put backs and offensive resets. Extra scoring like this is huge in a game like this so look for them to make an extra effort.
Game 3 will be huge for both teams. Look for Miami to continue to drive the ball and get it in the paint and for Oklahoma to get Durant involved early and to make sure they don’t fall behind like they have in the first two games. Should be interesting.