MIAMI HEAT 94 @ OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 105
NBA FINALS * Game 1 * Thunder lead series, 1-0
It wasn't necessarily a good start by the Thunder. The Heat got up early with three-pointers from Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers. Oklahoma City had those early jitters of being in the Finals for the first time. Except for Kevin Durant. Durant scored the first eight points for the Thunder and 11 of their first 16.
Battier and Chalmers continued to cook for the Heat while Serge Ibaka and Derek Fisher kept the Thunder within striking distance. The role players were basically doing their thing. While Russell Westbrook struggled with his shot early, he was helping move the ball around. Westbrook had six assists in the first half. Still, the Heat's hot shooting from the perimeter kept them in the lead after two quarters, 54-47.
It was a different story in the second quarter. OKC turned up the defense, especially Thabo Sefolosha, who seemed to be everywhere. But the Thunder started beating the Heat on both transition and halfcourt. Oklahoma City is probably the only team that's more athletic than the Heat. Couple that with the fact that the Thunder executed their offense with such crisp ball movement, which they're not really known for, and the Heat were in huge trouble.
While LeBron continued doing his thing (don't try to pin this on him, kids), the other Heat players' perimeter shots stopped falling. They really started settling as Sefolosha and Fisher's perimeter defense really disrupted the Heat's offensive flow. Fisher was getting real physical as Chalmers doubled over in pain twice in the second half. It might have been some heart punches or kicks to the gut. The refs would've caught Fisher if he actually did a Stone Cold Stunner so it was wise for him not to follow through with that.
The Thunder finally took the lead from the Heat at the end of the third quarter, 74-73, after being down as much as 13. OKC never looked back as the scoring champion took over (right when LeBron switched off him in defense). As the Heat continued to settle for jumpers, Durant basically got whatever he wanted from fastbreak dunks to jumpers. And Durant's length nearly made it impossible for the Heat to defend him. And just when the Heat got a little bit closer, Durant passed the ball to a cutting Nick Collison for the clinching dunk as Chris Bosh played the perfect matador defense. Oklahoma City outscored Miami in the second half, 58-40. Durant scored 17 points alone in the 4th quarter.
The three-time scoring champ finished with 36 points. Westbrook, who was criticized early when he wasn't making his shots, finished with an outstanding 27-8-11 line. Collison finished with 8 points and 10 rebounds. He really was the unsung hero in this game with the little things like his hustle, defensive effort (though he was robbed of one charge), setting perfect picks, and tapping the ball away from the Heat rebounders.
LeBron led the Heat with 30 points. Wade had a bad game as he only scored 19 points off 7/19 shooting. Shane Battier didn't get as many open looks in the second half as he finished with 19 points. Same with Chalmers, who finished with 12 points. Bosh, off the bench, scored 10 points. Coach Erik Spoelstra mentioned curiously that the Heat were on a shorter rotation "due to circumstances." In any case, I expect Bosh to start in the next game and for the Heat to go a little deeper on their rotations.
The Thunder got rid of the nerves after a shaky first half and was the more energized team right after (24-4 in fastbreak points in favor of the Thunder). They really made the Heat work for their shots and settle for jumpers. OKC outrebounded Miami, 43-35... and they even had more assists than the Heat, 22-20. Another key for the Thunder? They only turned the ball over twice in the second half. Miami is known for forcing turnovers and they didn't do that against the Thunder. It was just a great first game for the Thunder.
But we're sure Miami will make the necessary adjustments. Will Wade shoot better? Will Bosh start next game? Will Miami trap a little bit more to force the ball out of OKC's main guys?
Game 2 will be played on Thursday.
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