This game was a tale of two halves for both teams. The Thunder jumped out to an early 13-3 lead in the first quarter. It was something that Miami was used to doing to OKC in the first 3 games, but the Thunder gave them a taste of their own medicine. The reason for the early thrashing was simple as the Heat reverted back to what got them in trouble in game one. There were too many isolations and bad decisions on shot selection which led to the early onslaught by the Thunder. Russell Westbrook was in attack mode from the opening tip scoring 10 of his game high 43 points in the first quarter. The Thunder were attacking the Heat defense and forcing them to rotate opening up high percentage opportunities to score. The one bright spot in the first quarter for Miami was the spark plug they received off the bench from rookie Norris Cole scored 5 of his 8 points in the first keeping the Thunder on a couple of occasions from opening up the lead, cut the deficit to 14 on a 3 point shot assisted from LeBron James 33-19 after the first.
The Thunder started the second quarter settling for long jumpers that led to Miami scoring in transition. Back to back long jumper attempts by James Harden and Kevin Durant led to easy scores within the paint area for Miami. The Heat went on a tear scoring 16 straight points by attacking the Thunder defenders. LeBron James had his DNA on most of the run attacking the basket, posting up, making a 3, and assisting on four of the Heat baskets throughout the run. From what I noticed, whenever LeBron James attacked the basket he got great looks and finishing opportunities at the rim area, especially in the post. What made him so powerful in the paint was not only his ability to score on the block but also suck defenders in on help on him and then pass out to open shooters. With the run the Heat cut the deficit from 17 points to 1, 33-32. The momentum was clearly shifting to Miami, but Russell Westbrook would not go down without a fight scoring 8 in the quarter finishing with 18 points in the half 49-46. LeBron James had 8 of his 26 in the first half for Miami. Mario Chalmers provided a big surge in offense for the Heat, scoring 25 points for the home team.
The Thunder’s bread and butter throughout the series was to set good screens and move the ball. They got a lot done on penetrating and getting to the rim or moving the ball on multiple passes. The Thunder settled for a lot of isolation and 1-on-1 scoring opportunities. This usually works for OKC, but James Harden continued to struggle scoring only 8 points on 2-10 shooting. On the other side, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both gave great efforts for the Heat attacking the paint and made big plays all night for the Heat. LeBron James was easily the best player on the floor even though Westbrook lit up the box score for 43 points. James had 26 points 9 rebounds and 12 assists for the Heat. He simply dominated the game with not only his ability to score in the paint when he wanted on drives and post ups, but also made great passes to open teammates for scores. He also suffered severe cramping in his leg leading to his substitution in the fourth.
Oklahoma could never get into the flow of the game. They made a lot of mistakes down the stretch. Russell Westbrook even though had a great scoring night had a very Mellon collie performance. On one hand he kept the Thunder in the game most of the night generating offense when Harden struggled, but on the other he took 32 shots and on a lot of occasions couldn’t get Durant the ball in down the stretch. Miami stayed in the game all night when they finally went ahead 97-94 on a LeBron James three point make to take the lead 97-94 with 2:54 to go. Dwyane Wade had 25 in a winning effort for the Heat.
The big story for the Heat was the play of starting point guard Mario Chalmers. He opened up the floor for Miami as he made 3-three point shots as well as making many big drives for the Heat. He really stepped up in this victory giving the Eastern Conference Champions a secure 3-1 series lead over the Thunder with his 25 point effort.
Thunder Need A Boost In Offense. OKC doesn’t need more scoring as they are finding points, but the way in which they score is the problem. So much is done from isolation scoring and deep shots. The transition game was better tonight as the Thunder generated 17 points on the break. The inability to score on the block in my opinion is a heartbreaker for OKC. You don’t need to have a dominant scoring threat on the block to win a championship ask the six time champion Chicago Bulls in the 90’s. But, it takes so much pressure off of your half court offense when you can throw the ball down low and get it out of your perimeter player’s hands. It also opens up the floor and gives you the ability to space the floor to get some solid scoring opportunities. It also increases your chances of getting to the free throw line and opens up offensive rebounding. The three Thunder big men combined for 14 points almost half of those points coming from jump shots. They also need to do a better job setting screens not only on screen and rolls, but also pin downs for wing players. By screening well it can open up scoring opportunities not only for wing players but the big men setting the screens. Their offense can flow a lot better if they start setting solid screens
Bosh Needs Touches On The Block Chris Bosh has taken a lot of criticism for being soft. Some of that is his own fault as he likes to settle for jumpers and step back jumpers on occasion. As we’ve seen good things happen when the ball is thrown to him in the post. Most importantly, it takes the ball out of Dwyane Wade and LeBron’s hands and allows him to go to work. By him being on the block instead of 20 feet from the basket, it not only increases his chances of scoring but also opens up offensive rebounding opportunities for the Heat. If OKC tries to double on the post he can always kick the ball out to open shooters spaced around the three point line. It’s just another avenue to manufacture offense from. It isn’t something they have to force feed, but can do in the flow of the offense. LeBron did a great job scoring on the block and in the paint scoring 16 points close to the basket tonight.
Westbrook’s Criticism Is A Little Too Much I wanted to write a whole story on this, but chose not to because there have been so many of them out there. My take on Westbrook is that he is not a point guard. He doesn’t make point guard plays, doesn’t consistently find his best player easy shots, and is a scorer. I don’t mind that he’s not a point guard because he has a skill to get him in a game. His ability to take a game over with his offense is remarkable. He reminds me a lot of Dwyane Wade in 2005. He’s a two guard that needs the ball in his hands to score points. He can make plays for others but not consistently. He’s better served off the ball and running pick and roll to him as well as isolation, and coming off screens. This team so used to him shooting the ball as he averaged nearly 20 shots a game all season. This team needs him to score points to be successful. He’s never going to be John Stockton and that is ok. He has a skill and he’s very good at it. Just keep in mind he will on many occasions shoot you out of a game just as much as he can shoot you into it. They have to find a way at points in the game to get the ball out of his hands and maybe run James Harden at point guard a little bit to keep their firepower as well as add a passer on the ball.
Durant Needs To Get Mean Mr nice guy is great for his image and it makes him easy to deal with and coach, but Durant needs to get a little angry. I don’t think its fair just to criticize Westbrook for not getting him the ball, I think he needs to demand it. This is his team, yes Westbrook helped him get here, but Durant must demand the basketball and find a way to get it. Shane Battier and James did a great job guarding him late in the game, but he needs to find opportunities. If he cant get the ball on the wing then post up or set a 1-3 screen and roll to free himself up. Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller, Larry Bird, and Kobe Bryant are ice water veins players which meant when it was crunch time they made no excuses as they were not going to sit as a spectator as they were going to find ways to get the ball and go on runs of 8,10,12,14 straight points. Kevin needs to show emotion and anger and take over games, especially early to get his teams going and most importantly late in the game to close. He’s the best scorer in the finals and best shot maker we need to see that.