Deep Oklahoma City bench may trump Miami’s short rotation
Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 15:06
One team was bolstered by its depth while the other suffered for lack of it.
With a condensed schedule and virtually no regular-season statistics to support anyone’s prediction, the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder began the NBA Finals on Tuesday night.
Tallying up 17 points in the fourth quarter alone, Kevin Durant ensured that Oklahoma City’s home court remained undefeated in the postseason (9-0 at home this postseason) with a 105-94 victory over the Miami Heat.
The teams split their two matchups earlier in the year, but in the playoffs (especially after a shortened season), those numbers take flight. Kevin Durant, the league’s leading scorer and loveable superstar, goes head-to-head against LeBron James, the MVP and most despised mega-talent since, well, ever. It’s only one game in and we have a series.
The Thunder came out with shooting woes and defensive lapses in the first half, which led to a seven-point deficit at halftime. After adjusting to the Heat and their ability to play up-tempo while feasting on turnovers that lead to easy fast-break buckets, Oklahoma City climbed its way back into the game by taking care of the ball and ensuring Miami did not. Oklahoma City was the benefactor of seven second-half Miami turnovers that led to nine points for the Thunder. They finished with a 24-4 fast-break point advantage.
Not only did the Heat look like a team with roster disadvantages, they seemed to be caught off guard by the efficiency of Oklahoma City. Coming out of a weak Eastern Conference where the toughest opposition was an old, injured Celtics team, Miami has yet to face a squad with a stacked bench and no severe injuries.
They also beat themselves in this particular match. Not one Miami starter was a positive (+/-) on the floor. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh made just 11 of their 30 shot attempts while Bosh was minus-16 during his 33-minute tenure on the court.
On the opposing side, the Thunder went through the gauntlet on their road to the team’s first Finals appearance since they were moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008. They have a well-rounded team on paper with scorers like Durant and Russell Westbrook being helped in the paint by rebounding and blocking specialists Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison. Oklahoma City also has a not-so-secret weapon coming off the bench in Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, who is not just a scorer, but an underappreciated facilitator that defenses must pay attention to. The main pieces of Westbrook and Durant combined for 63 points on 50-percent shooting.
With just one game, it still isn’t easy to tell whether this is Durant’s or James’ year. A series turns around in one game, on one play. If the Heat are to hang with the young yet matured Thunder, James’ teammates must show up with him.
The MVP cannot win a championship alone.