- Interesting matchups to start the game by both teams. As expected, Dwayne Wade opened the game covering Russell Westbrook. However, LeBron James was matched up against Serge Ibaka, not Kevin Durant (Shane Battier opened up on Durant). Due to the Heat’s smaller lineup, Ibaka was forced to cover Battier on the opposite end. You could tell that Ibaka simply isn’t comfortable defending on the perimeter (nor should he be), evident by Battier knocking down his first three shots beyond the arc.
- James settled for outside jump shots to open the game, missing his first two jumpers. James is a player that has to get into rhythm before he can start knocking down the outside shot consistently. You would think that he would try and attack the rim, instead of settling for jumpers. James finished just 2 of 8 on shots outside of 16 feet.
- Really poor rotation by both teams, especially in transition. I am not sure if it is due to the awkward matchups, but players look confused as to their defensive assignments. Battier and Chalmers received wide open looks in transition for the Heat, and Durant received the same.
- Wade is going to have a tough time staying in front of Westbrook. He obviously has a quick enough first step to get by Wade, and looks every bit as strong. Not sure how Spoelstra is going negate this mismatch.
Harden did a great job of initiating offense once he entered the game. He found two open Thunder players in transition (Durant & Fisher) that converted to easy baskets.
- The Thunder were a lot more aggressive to start the second half. Great hustle plays by Kendrick Perkins (9:00 minute mark-3rd qtr) and Thabo Sefalosha (8:00 minute mark) led to Thunder baskets or points via the free throw line.
- Speaking of Sefalosha, he did an excellent job of playing the passing lanes in the 3rd quarter. He gives the Thunder the best chance of containing Dwayne Wade in this series.
- What separates James and Durant from the rest of the players on the floor (at least from an offensive standpoint), is their feel of when to shoot from the outside versus when to attack the paint. Durant’s dribble penetration at the 6:50 mark of the third quarter is a perfect example of this. With his team trailing by two (60-58), Durant chose not to pull up and shoot a jumper after beating James off the dribble. Instead, he penetrated into the paint area and made a gorgeous drop off pass to Sefalosha (after Wade had to help out) that enabled the Thunder to tie the game. Not to be outdone, James would answer with back to back driving layups to put the Heat back up by four.
- Poor job by Spoelstra making defensive adjustments on Russell Westbrook in the 3rd quarter. Westbrook beat numerous Heat defenders off the dribble, most of whom were crowding Westbrook way too much. Brooks identified this and allowed Westbrook to have free reign during the quarter (12 points in the quarter). The Heat and Spoelstra might need to re-assess their defensive strategy on Westbrook going forward.
- Horrible offensive sets by the Heat to open the 4th quarter. Their first two series were a LeBron James contested fade away jump shot, followed by a Wade three point jump shot. On the latter possession, James and Wade were the only Heat players to touch the ball. Neither player got inside the three point arc on the possession.
- Great offensive sets by the Thunder to start the 4th quarter. Immediately following Wade’s aforementioned three point miss (10:40 mark), the Thunder moved the ball impressively to take a five point lead. I counted seven passes during the possession. Great team basketball.
- James seems to have a knack of missing decisive free throws in the 4th quarter with the game close. He kept that trend going by missing a potential three point play with 6:53 remaining (the miss kept the score 84-81 in favor of OKC)
- I can’t recall a player who gets to the basket as quickly as Durant does with dribble penetration from the perimeter. He is so long and lengthy that he can get to the basket with ease by only dribbling once or twice. For those who remember Durant’s penetration at the 5:48 mark, you know exactly what I am talking about.
- Anyone notice the look on Pat Riley’s face when Westbrook put the Thunder up by 10 (93-83) at 3:30 mark? He seemed to have the “oh no, not again” look going on.
Best closer in the game? After watching Kevin Durant’s fourth quarter performance tonight (15 points), as well as his impressive run during this postseason, it’s hard to argue against. Durant’s performance tonight equates into legendary status. People will be talking about his performance for years to come.
- With the way the Thunder shot the ball tonight (especially in the second half), 19 points won’t cut it from Dwayne Wade. However, finding a way to get more production out of Wade could be challenging for Spoelstra and his coaching staff. The Heat obviously lean on James and Wade to produce offensively, and the Thunder know this. Until others prove that they can score consistently (similar to what Battier did tonight), Wade will face constant double teams on the perimeter.
- We felt that the biggest positional advantage for either team coming into the series was Russell Westbrook versus whichever Heat player defended him. True to form, Westbrook was an impossible cover for the Heat tonight. Spoelstra has to find a way to keep Westbrook out of the paint area. I am not sure if it involves sagging off him up high, or bringing constant double teams. Whatever it may be, the Heat need to get it figured out quickly. If not, this could be a very quick series.
Check back Thursday night for our continuing coverage of the NBA Finals