Coming into this series I knew that Miami had an uphill battle without question. The focus it would take to not only stop the Thunder’s potent offense as well as their young energetic style of play. The Heat have plenty of players that not only can score but do the little things, but had no chance Tuesday night for one simple reason not enough singles and too many homerun swings.
Playoff basketball is all about making simple plays in the flow of the game. For that matter basketball in general it doesn’t matter if its pre season or the championship simple basketball plays are bigger than isolation tough shots. To sum up tonight’s game the Thunder made a lot more simple plays than the Miami Heat did.
The first quarter was dominated by the Miami Heat. Shane Battier was great early making 3 quick open three point shots to take an early 20-10 lead with 5:26 to go. Their offense was flowing as they were attacking the paint to force OKC’s defenders to help off their man to stop penetration opening up open shots. The young Thunder team kept their composure and ran their offense getting easy shots and getting their hands on the majority of the 50-50 balls. They capitalized on Miami mistakes and kept in the game closing the first quarter off with a James Harden jump shot to cut the Heat lead to 29-22.
The second quarter was a give and take for most of it. LeBron James opened up aggressively scoring 6 points in the first 3 minutes. The Thunder started to stabilize cutting the Heat lead to 8 points with 4:39 to go. The Thunder just converted easy points getting good shots by running their half court offense. The Heat held on to their lead at the half with a 54-47 lead. You can see it in the game that the momentum was shifting towards the Thunder. The Heat were settling for deep jump shots instead of attacking the Thunder defense and forcing them to rotate opening up opportunities for easier offense. The Thunder moved the basketball and attacked the Heat defense. They finally tied the game up with 6:64 in the 3rd quarter with a penetrating drive by Durant that forced Miami to help on him and he found Sefolosha cutting to the basket for the layup at the rim. Miami countered with consecutive drives by LeBron James to take a 64-60 lead with 5:54 to go in the quarter. For the next three minutes of the game instead of adding to their lead and attacking the paint, the Heat settled for deep contested jumpshots. The Thunder didn’t capitalize much besides on a pair of free throws to cut the Heat lead to 2, The Heat came back with a three point make by Shane Battier form the weak side of the floor as LeBron James made a great pass on the elbow isolation. He took advantage of the Thunder defender sagging off of Battier to take a 69-64 lead with 3:17 to go in in the third. Miami answered with two good possession in a row that led to a LeBron James drive and dunk and Dwyane Wade aggressive drive that led to a foul on Westbrook and a pair of free throws to take a 73-69 lead. Scott Brooks took advantage of the Heat bigger lineup by spacing out Bosh on the perimeter which led to a pick and roll split, score, and a foul by Russell Westbrook to take a 1 point lead with under 20 seconds to go in the quarter.
The fourth quarter was all Kevin Durant as he delivered 17 points to seal the victory for the Thunder. It wasn’t the amount of points that he scored, but the way that he scored them. While the Heat settled for deep jumper after jumper he attacked the defense and got into the lane. The Heat had no answer for him as he continued to slice through their defense and make easy plays. The Heat didn’t help their cause by forcing shots that led to many Thunder transition opportunities on the other end. Many times the Heat forced deep shots with over 15 on the shot clock instead of working the clock for good shots. In the end the Thunder proved to be too much as they defeated the Heat 105-94 to take a 1 game lead. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 36 points while he grabbed 8 rebounds and dished out 4 assists. LeBron James led the Heat with 30 points and 9 rebounds.
This game was all about philosophy. The Thunder continued to attack the paint to score or make passes to open teammates while the Heat settled for a steady diet of tough shots. On the defensive end the Thunder were active and did a great job making the Heat force bad shot after bad shot. Miami didn’t do themselves any favors by not going to the post for most of the game either LeBron or Chris Bosh could have helped their cause by getting touches on the block and spacing the floor. This put too much pressure on their wing players to penetrate and create opportunities which didn’t happen. They kept the ball on the perimeter and didn’t go anywhere with the dribble forcing many long distance contested shots which led to a lot of plays in transition for the Thunder.
The Thunder won this game with a lackluster first half as well as one of their best players James Harden being limited to 5 points. Nick Collison stepped up big for the Thunder scoring 8 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. His energy was huge for the OKC.
If the series continues to be played like this and the Heat have a steady diet of tough contested shots as well as allowing 100+ points by the Thunder they wont stand much of a chance. If they go back to what made them a successful team all year and attack the paint as well as go to the post this can be a very good series that can go either way. I guess we will have to find out next game to see if anything changes.