By: Jeremy Marks-Peltz
7.6 Things to take out of the Heat’s 105-94 loss to Oklahoma City in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
1. Thunder Beat the Heat in Every Which Way: Not only was Oklahoma City the better team, but as Erik Spoelstra eluded to postgame, the Thunder beat the Heat at their own game. OKC outscored Miami by an astonishing 24-4 count in fast break points, and seemed to operate Spoelstra’s “space and pace” offense, while the Heat tried to go half-court the entire game. It took a two quarters, but the Thunder’s fresher legs obliterated the Heat 58-41 in the second half, with huge games from Kevin Durant (36 points, 12-20 FG) and Russell Westbrook (27 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds). The third member of OKC’s Big Three last night? Not James Harden, who labored through foul trouble the whole night. I will go with Nick Collison (8 points, 10 rebounds), who seemed to beat the Heat to every loose ball in the second half, keeping Thunder possessions alive.
2. Advantage – Durant: All eyes will of course be on the Kevin Durant-LeBron James matchup, a.k.a. the fight for “greatest in the world” honors. After one game, the advantage has to go to Durant. He was unstoppable, whether it was from downtown, mid-range, or attacking the basket. He seemed to listen to coach Scott Brooks when Brooks told him to get aggressive in the middle of the game. Durant saved his best for last, tallying 17 points in the fourth quarter.
3. That Said, Don’t Blame LeBron: No, it was not a vintage game for LeBron James, and at times, his shot selection was questionable. But LeBron, unfairly and predictably, is shouldering the most blame for being the only part of the Heat’s Big 3 to show up. LBJ scored a Finals career-high 30 points, grabbed nine rebounds, had four assists, four steals, and shot nearly 50 percent from the floor, while defending at least four different players. Would we complain about anyone else who had that kind of game? Of course not.
4. Woeful Wade: So after crediting the Thunder, where should the blame be placed? Let’s start with the Teflon guy on the Heat, Dwyane Wade. D-Wade came in holding the 3rd highest points per game average (30.6) in NBA Finals history. Wade came out of Game 1 with the worst Finals performance of his career (19 points, 7-19 FG), settling for bad jump shot after jump shot, reverted to crying to officials, and in crunch time, was schooled by Westbrook. Wade played too many minutes, and clearly continues to be hobbled. Wade looked more like Mo Williams last night than the 2006 Finals MVP.
5. Spo and Bosh: While we are playing the blame game, let’s bring up Erik Spoelstra and Chris Bosh. I’m a Spoelstra fan, but he coached an awful game on Tuesday. It’s one thing to play LeBron James wire-to-wire in an elimination game, but 46 straight minutes in Game 1 of a series, even the Finals? Makes no sense, especially after a grueling seven-game series vs. Boston. LeBron had a right to call Spo out after the game, saying “he and Wade needed rest.” No reason for the coach to essentially shrink his rotation to six players. Also, I am at a loss for words as to why LeBron barely defended Kevin Durant. As for Bosh, did he show up? 10 points, five rebounds, and poor defensive performance all night, including with the Heat down only five, losing Nick Collison along the baseline for a wide open jam to seal the deal.
6. First Half Fools Gold: There was plenty to get excited about in the Heat's first half when they scored 54 points. In fact, on Twitter (@jmpeltz), I said Miami played the perfect half. But in retrospect, Shane Battier (13 of 17 points in first half) and Mario Chalmers (10 of 12 points in first half) may have hurt the Heat more than helped. Why? Because it got Miami in a mindset that it could win by shooting jumpers and three’s all night, which clearly wasn’t the case.
7. The Most Overrated Thing in Sports: That would be playoff experience. Just add last night to the long histroy of the more inexperienced team winning. The Thunder have plenty of poise after dismantling the defending NBA champs (Dallas), the Lakers, and the juggernaut Spurs to get to the NBA Finals. Oh yeah, don't forget that they have a massive amount of talent. Those things matter, not the playoff experience.
.6: (The big picture in a pocket-size paragraph) I say don’t panic if you are a Heat fan. The Thunder had a tremendous advantage in Game 1, not just with the home crowd, but by facing a spent Heat team. Think of the Celtics coming off a seven-game series against Philly and getting crushed by the Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. I think LeBron and Wade will be much more aggressive in Game 2, and I expect Spoelstra to figure out a much better blueprint to try and make life difficult for Westbrook or Durant. One thing to pay attention to? If Bosh's ab strain is flaring up again.
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