The Miami Heat bounced back from a Game 1 loss and held off a late rush by the Oklahoma City Thunder to win Game 2 on the road 100-96. They now head off to South Beach with home court advantage, hosting OKC for the next three games, where they hope to take over the series lead. But before we focus on Sunday’s Game 3, it’s time to take a look at the Nine things we learned from Game 2.
OKC Can Come Back From Huge Deficits, But Should Still Avoid Running Into Them
Like I said in the Game 1 recap, the Thunder are never afraid of any deficit, having won five of their 13 games these playoffs coming back from being behind at the half. But just because they CAN, doesn’t mean they SHOULD. It is ok to play with a lead early on, especially at home with the loudest fans in basketball cheering them on.
OKC fell behind 18-2 to start the game as Russell Westbrook got off to another terrible start and Kevin Durant picked up two quick fouls halfway through the quarter*. James Harden needed to provide a spark to not only his team, but the arena as well to get the Thunder back into the moment, and he did just that, doubling his Game 1 point total of five in the 1st quarter alone**.
Even with Harden’s effort, OKC only scored 43 points at the half, their low for the entire postseason, with not a single fast break point. That’s bad for a team who’s so effective in the run-and-gun. They obviously jumped back into things with a huge 4th quarter charge, led by KD and Russ, but it just wasn’t enough to make up for the 1st quarter. The funny thing about basketball is that the points don’t change in value as the game gets later, only the pressure to get them does. 1st quarter points have the same value as 4th quarter ones.
*After the first half, KD had a +/- of -17. Westbrook with a -19.
**With 8:13 left in the second, Harden had more than half of the Thunder’s 25 points.
The Thunder Made Things Difficult For Themselves All Game Long
From cheap fouls 90+ feet away from the opposing basket, to an uncharacteristically bad free throw shooting night*, to odd offensive plays called**, OKC didn’t try to win this game the easy way until late in the game. The easy way, of course, is making sure your three big offensive weapons get good looks and stay out of foul trouble.
*The Thunder led the league in free throw shooting this season AND in the playoffs, but missed seven of their 26 attempts from the line, including two from the always seemingly perfect Durant.
**Kendrick Perkins should never be passed the ball ever again in order to try and establish him on offense… EVER!
Dwyane Wade And Chris Bosh Showed Up
That feels like an understatement; they were the All Stars they needed to be in Game 2. After rough Game 1’s, the Heat didn’t stand a chance if LeBron James was going to have to be on his own tonight. But his teammates gave him the help he asked for. Bosh made his first start since returning from his injury he suffered in Game 1 of the Pacers series. Starting at center, Bosh finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds, giving the Heat front line a legitimate player*. Not only that, but he played 40 minutes!
Wade, coming off a putrid shooting effort, shot 50% from the field, going 10-20, and finishing with a line of 24-6-5**. Best off all, when he drove and attacked the basket, he took in his surroundings and either found the open man when attacked with help pressure, or finished as hard as he could at the rack.
*He still shot a three though, which he has no business doing.
**Wade’s still not getting to the free throw line as much as he’s like (Only 6 attempts), but what can you expect with the injury
OKC STILL Shouldn’t Worry About Shane Battier
Shane Battier had another out of character night for Miami, scoring 17 points for the second night in a row, hitting clutch shots for the Heat, providing a viable look for James or Wade to kick it out to around the three point line, and blah blah blah blah blah. I know people are GUSHING about what Battier is doing in these first two games, but if SHANE BATTIER is the player who is going to be responsible for Miami winning the title, then so be it for Oklahoma City. The guy went 5 of fricken 7 from beyond the arc. There’s NO WAY that happens again the rest of this series. Anyone who has watched the Heat throughout these playoffs knows that they’ve seen Battier clank more open looks from three than we can count. Eventually, that Shane will show up again. It’s a matter of time. If not, and if the Heat are going to rely on Battier being there to bank in a couple more lucky shots like he did tonight, then again… So. Be. It.
Miami Freezes Up Late In The 4th
The biggest issue for Miami after watching the first two games of these Finals is that their play in the last five or so minutes of the game has not been pretty to watch. Something happens to this team throughout the course of the 48 minutes in a game that they forget that the reason they have so much success early on is because of the intense way they attack the basket and defend the opposition. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook barely had room to breathe in the first quarter, but in the 4th, were finding the open looks they were used to. LeBron and his Miami teammates were destroying the Thunder driving to the bucket as they led by 17 points in the first, but switched up their offense in the forth where they pass the ball around, hold onto it for five seconds, then pass it again, before rushing up an ill-advised shot. If this isn’t Erik Spolstra’s first thing on his list he needs to work on in the next three days before Sunday’s game, he needs to revamp his practice outline.
On the contrary, OKC’s going at Miami at their toughest in the 4th Quarter and pressure filled moments. In the early stages, they have no pressure on the gas and look like their on cruise control. They need to look at the Heat’s intensity early on and gain some of that for the next three games at AAA, or else they’ll be in big trouble coming back from deficits on the road.
Scott Brooks Needs To Cut Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher’s Minutes BAD
In the combined 44 minutes the two most championship experienced members of Oklahoma City played, they accounted for six points, nine rebounds, and two assists on 2-10 from the floor. Perkins got a couple big offensive rebounds, that would’ve been helpful, if he didn’t miss put backs right next to the rim. Fisher, who is in the Thunder rotation to only hit threes, was 0-4 from the three-point range*. At key points in the 3rd and 4th Quarter, I looked to see where players like Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison, who both were outstanding in Game 1, were on the court, and found them to be on the bench. Instead, there was Perk and Fisher, in for way too much longer than they should have been**.
Perkins plays an important role on the Thunder when playing in the West vs a Pau Gasol, a Tim Duncan, or a strong big. There is NO ONE on the Heat for him to match up with in his skill set. Fisher is on this team to give them an irrational confidence guy*** and a winning presence, but you don’t need that when the best scorer alive is on your team and when Thabo’s defensive or Harden’s ability to create/all around play should be matched with Westbrook at the guard positions.
*Meanwhile, three-point marksman Daequan Cook got a DNP for the night. You can’t tell me he couldn’t have knocked down any of those shots if he was in there for a minute or two.
**Before Collison came in for Perkins with 1:00 remaining in the 4th, he had played only three minutes. That’s asinine on the part of Brooks.
***Irrational Confidence Guy- Someone on a team who believes they are a much better player or shooter than they actually are, as in they won’t be afraid to take a big shot when the moment faces them, but tend to shoot more than they should otherwise. EC: Nick “Swaggey P” Young, J.R. Smith, Jason Terry
Thabo Sefolosha Should Never Try To Dunk… Ever
His third missed dunk in two Finals games. Thabo, meet layups. Layups, meet Thabo. You two are going be friends from here on out.
Refs Are More Times Than Not Going To Impact A Game
I don’t want to get too much into the referees in this game because, as it says above, the refs are always going to impact the game one way or another in the current structure of the NBA’s style of officiating. I have no answer to how to fix the game, but everyone watching can clearly say with the flopping, the tick-tack calls, and the random no calls, David Stern and his top men need to get to work on this issue as soon as the offseason starts.
Durant, Westbrook, LeBron, and Wade all had two fouls called on them mid way through the 2nd quarter. LeBron finished with four, and Durant picked up his 5th with 11 minutes to go in the 4th quarter*. If you strictly listened to the fans, you would’ve thought OKC had lost the foul disparity despite being at home, when actually, they shot one more free thrown than Miami did**.
The one call everyone’s talking about*** is the no call on LeBron after replay showed he hit Durant on the Thunder star’s game tying shot attempt with about seven seconds left. People are calling it a terrible judgment on the officials to swallow the whistle there, and while it may have been the wrong call, the referees let the players decide the action, which fans seem to always want to have happen. I believe Durant can hit that shot that close to the basket a pretty large amount of times even with that contact if he took it 100 times; it’s just this time the shot didn’t go in.
*Although, he did score all his points that quarter, staying aggressive the entire time despite the chance of fouling out and then all but ending the game.
**Still Strange to not get some more calls at home, but tonight’s crew made it clear they were not intimidated by the OKC faithful whatsoever.
***Along with the block/charge between Battier and Durant halfway through the fourth that would’ve been KD’s 6th, but instead was called on Battier, keeping Durant in the game and the game exciting.
This Series Is Really, Really, Really Fun
Remember when Kevin Durant hit that three with the game “seemingly” over, to cut the lead to 98-96 and Twitter exploded… This is going to be a great NBA Finals we all should savor for a while. Even if these two become this decade’s Lakers-Celtics. Now… can someone tell me how to not lose my mind waiting for this game on Sunday?