The Thunder Dictate Tempo to Start the Game; Struggle to Maintain It
For the first time during the NBA Finals, the Thunder dictated tempo in the opening quarter. After averaging 19 points in the first quarter of the previous three games, Oklahoma City exploded for 33 points (on 63% shooting) during the opening frame of Game 4. The Thunder looked to push the ball early and often during the opening quarter, and simply looked more athletic than the Heat. You almost get the feel that OKC needs to play at this type of pace to try and negate some of Miami’s half court defensive sets. Unfortunately for Thunder fans, this tempo came to a screeching halt in the second quarter. Oklahoma City wouldn’t score their first points of the second quarter until Russell Westbrook’s driving layup at the 8:20 mark. In fact, after scoring 33 points in the opening quarter, the Heat would ultimately control the tempo of the game for the remaining three quarters.
Pick Your Poison with Lebron
One of Lebron James biggest attributes on the basketball court is his ability to find the open man. He did this on numerous occasions during the first half, picking up a game high 8 assists. The Thunder were forced to bring double teams on James during numerous low post situations in the first half and James made the correct decision on nearly every double team. His decision making enabled the Heat to climb back into the game after falling behind early. Norris Cole’s two 3 points shots in the second quarter were a direct result of James drawing a double team. Lebron continues to excel during these Finals, and quite honestly looks a lot more comfortable than he did just one year ago. James is now averaging 29.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists thus far during these NBA Finals.
Westbrook Puts Forth Memorable Performance
Russell Westbrook single handily kept the Thunder afloat during Game 4. On an evening when James Harden simply didn’t have it going, Westbrook was forced to pick up much of the slack on the offensive end. And pick it up he did. Westbrook becomes basically unguardable when he is able to knock down the mid range jump shot, something he was able to do early (I counted at least three 18 foot jumpers in the 1st quarter). Westbrook finished with a game high 43 points, but simply didn’t get enough production from his supporting cast (Harden’s 2-10 shooting night was a killer).
Chalmers Joins the Party
After scoring just 5 points (in 80 minutes of play) in his last two games, Mario Chalmers was the difference maker for the Heat tonight. Chalmers has always had a knack for stepping up in big games, and tonight was no different. His 25 points matched his scoring high of this postseason. Chalmers converted on three shots beyond the arc, and the Heat as a team knocked down 10. Miami outscored OKC by 21 points tonight on three point shooting. If the Thunder go onto lose this series, they will probably look at tonight’s 3-16 as something that ultimately did them in.
Check back Thursday night for our continuing coverage of the NBA Finals.
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