The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals 105-94, defending home court and now needing only three more wins to become NBA Champions. While winning the first game doesn’t guarantee any success in terms of winning a title*, it does put OKC on the right path towards the Larry O’Brien trophy.
*Just ask last year’s Heat team.
We learned a lot after watching Game One and can take away some important information about both squads as we look ahead to the future of the series. Here are the Seven Things We Learned from Tuesday nights action:
The Thunder aren’t afraid of being down at the half
Including Game 1 vs. Miami, the Thunder have been down at the half in five games this postseason that they’ve come back to win*. I was getting texts throughout the first 24 minutes wondering if the Thunder should be worried when I knew this was a team that wouldn’t be rattled by a realistic deficit at this point in the season. The largest Miami ever led was 13 points but some clutch play and stingy defense in the last few minutes from the home team allowed OKC to go into the half trailing only by seven. A double-digit lead would have been a little tougher to deal with, but seven points… That’s a three-possession game**. No team playing for a finals should ever struggle with that. Especially when you think of the second thing we learned from Game 1.
*Including an 18 point defecit against the Spurs in the series clinching Game 6.
**Durant hit an early three on either the first or second possession of the third as he was on his way to a game high 36 points, turning the Heat lead to four to start play. That was a turning point in the action.
Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers are not to be trusted
In terms, of course, of being looked at as reliable scoring options. Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy were praising the efforts of the two role players for Miami, stepping it up in the first half. Battier started hitting his shot, something he hasn’t done all playoffs, tying his playoff game high in just 24 minutes with 13 points, going 5-6 from the field. Chalmers, who Breen said never shies away from the big moments and always raises his game, had 10 on 4-6. They accounted for 23 of the Heat’s 54 points. As I tweeted at the half https://twitter.com/gregbrzozowski/status/212728549830959104, this trend was not going to continue. In the second half, the two scored a combined six points and had no impact on the game whatsoever. Miami needs to have contributions from their role players, but cannot rely on them, especially with the game on the line. That’s where their stars come in… Or are at least supposed to come in.
Dwayne Wade has been TURRIBLE!!!*
On the B.S. Report last week, the Miami Herald’s Dan LeBatard said he believed that D-Wade was at best, playing at 70% due to injuries. I believe it, because there’s no way he could be playing this poorly all playoffs healthy. The Thunder wanted him to shoot long jump shots all game long. So did their fans. Wade obliged, and clanked iron… often. Dwyane finished 7-19 for 19 points, but watching the whole game, it felt like he was 4-23 with 15, at best. Besides for the last half of the Pacers series, Wade has been a liability to the Heat’s offense because he simply doesn’t have the strength, motor, or ability, to get the rim like his healthy self would. He settles for long jumpers and threes** instead. With Bosh coming back from injury, LeBron had to carry the star power on his own, scoring a Finals high for him with 30 on 11-24***. Miami needs the scoring to come from these three. Meanwhile, things are different in OKC.
*Shoutout to Chuck, Kenny, EJ, and the rest of the Inside the NBA crew. We miss you… Note: Don’t pass this on to Shaq.
**Wade was 0-2 from beyond the arc, but took enough long twos to make you think he shot there more.
***Serious question: Without the MVP this year, does this Miami team even make the playoffs? Just wondering on your opinions.
James Harden doesn’t need to go all, Fear the Beard, for OKC to win
Harden had his worst game of the playoffs Tuesday night, scoring only five points in a reduced 22 minutes connecting on only two of his six shot attempts. It marked the first time this third year breakout star was held to single digits this playoffs. But who cares about that, when you have the best scorer in the world on your team in Kevin Durant and the human video game, Russell Westbrook. KD and Russ had a heck of first final games. Durant stayed hot all game, hit daggers and hustling all over the court. Kevin’s 36 was the most a player in his Finals debut had scored since the NBA-ABA merger outside of Allen Iverson’s amazing 48 vs. the Lakers in 2001*. Westbrook had a terrible first half, then followed it up with a signature crowd electrifying second half, as he helped set the run and go tone for his team and finished with 27 points and 11 assists. Russ didn’t need his non-prescription, basketball nerd, red glasses to find the open man on the break or read the defense, as he helped OKC win the fast break battle 24-4. Hustle was the name of the game for the Thunder in Game 1.
*You’re welcome #TyronnLuesNightmare http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grXws5m11SA
OKC out-hustled the Heat in the heat of the moment*
The Heat had more steals than the Thunder, but it seemed as though those all came in the early moments of the game. OKC came up with momentum building turnovers that allowed them to shrink Miami’s lead, and eventually regain control. Thabo Sefolosha continues to make a name for himself these playoffs on a nation wide level as one of the leagues best defenders and it wasn’t Kendrick Perkins or Serge Ibaka banging bodies on the inside, tipping out offensive rebounds, or diving for loose balls. It was Nick Collison, who led the team with 10 rebounds in just 21 minutes. Gut check time came late. OKC answered the call, while the Heat dropped it.
*See what I did there. And, I can’t resist: http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/218259/heat-of-the-moment
A Picture IS worth a thousand words, or one YouTube clip
Look at the picture above while listening to this:
Jeff Van Gundy began talking about Mo Cheeks, then informing the world that when he coached Cheeks, he loved his game so much he named his cat “Cheeks”, who lived for 18 years and then died.
That was the whole story. Technically, it is something we learned during the game*.
*The Internet somehow failed me because no one has yet to put up the clip of Van Gundy talking about “Cheeks” on YouTube. Check throughout the day. If you missed it, it was worth it.
Oklahoma City should be proud of the way they played Tuesday night, but by no means should anyone count out Miami. People have wondered for the past two series if the Heat were done and counted them out against both Indiana and Boston. Both times they came back. OKC knows Game 6 vs. Boston LeBron is waiting somewhere and can’t let their guard down. But who knows what we will learn in Game 2.