True Hoops

True Hoops

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Advantage: Durant (Thunder)

One game down.
What have we learned?
The young bucks in OKC are ready.

They don't panic and they certainly act like they have done this before. My goodness, 36 points (on 60% shooting) and 8 rebounds for KD and 27 points, 11 assists, and 8 rebounds for their first Finals game ever! Is it too much to say that in game one of the Finals, KD and Westbrook made LeBron and Wade look like a poor man's version of themselves? And thus for the Thunder as a whole, it was just another day at the playoff office overcoming yet another double digit deficit. Where did this youth movement come from?

Maybe it's a surprise that these kids are this good, this soon. But then again, sometimes special players don't have to wait their turn - they simply take it. We seem to have this notion (probably because of Jordan) that all superstars and/or great teams have to pay their dues to taste championship glory. Jordan was 28 during that iconic scene of him crying while hugging the Larry O'Brian trophy. But historically this might not be the norm for the all-time greats. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was 24 when he won his first championship (and Finals MVP). Magic Johnson was 21 when he won his first championship (and Finals MVP). Larry Bird was 25 for his first chip. Tim Duncan, 23. Kobe, 22. Therefore, With KD and Westbrook at 23 years of age apiece - they may actually be primed to raise their first banner. Was all of LeBron's trials and tribulations for naught?

But was only game one.
And with that said, here is the good news for each team heading into game 2:

The good news for the Thunder:
1) It doesn't seem as if anyone on the planet (let alone the Heat) can guard Kevin Durant and/or Russell WestBrook. They played like favorites.
2) They overcame a 13 point deficit and won by 11...... with James Harden only scoring 5 points.
3) Derek Fisher has certainly done this before - and his 6 points in the first half helped stem the Heat tide early on.
4) Nick Collison was a beast on the boards - grabbing 10 rebounds (to go along with 8 points). He was a difference maker in the 2nd half.
5) Shane Battier probably won't have another performance like he did in game 1
6) LeBron only took 6 shots in the 4th quarter.

The good news for the Heat:
1) Dwyane Wade was offensively inefficient and Chris Bosh didn't make an impact, yet they still led most of the way and were in the game until late in the 4th.
3) The supporting players, particularly Battier (17 points), Chalmers (12 points), and Haslem (11 rebounds) seem up to the task.
4) LeBron James had a "okay" game. He shot less than 50% from the field and perhaps made only two jump shots the whole game. And, for the first time these playoffs, he seemed to be out of gas. Yet he still finished with 30 points 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals.
5) The Heat have trailed in a series twice already these playoffs. Both times after falling behind, they won their next game to tie it up.
6) In those two wins that tied up their series against Indiana and Boston, LeBron James averaged 42.5 points, 16.5 rebounds, and 7 assists.

For the Thunder:
Not much - except not falling behind by double digits. If Miami goes small with battier at the 4, Ibaka has to contest threes better. Additionally, getting Harden more involved is a good idea - especially in some pick and role situations.

For the Heat:
Put Wade in the post on offense when Westbrook and Harden guard him. Put him in pick and roll situations with Bosh when Sefolosha guards him.

Need to do a better job of limiting second chance points - that killed Miami when the Thunder took the lead late in the 3rd/early in the 4th.

Maybe trying a 3-2 matchup zone would be a nice option? It would take away Westbrook's drives to the basket and contest Durant better on jump shots. Also, put LeBron on Durant in the 4th.

And, to sound like a broke record, RUN MORE PLAYS FOR LEBRON - especially in the 4th. 6 shots in the 4th is unacceptable. Put him in some curls to the basket off of down screens set by Bosh (having Bosh set on the ball screens for Wade and down screens for LeBron will get him a lot of open looks and favorable switches). The Thunder defenders can't stay in front of LeBron and therefore are practically begging him to take 15 foot jumpers. Getting LeBron more shots will get him in a rhythm to make the defense pay. Continue to put him in the post.

Just a little food for thought.

1) Remember that magic number 68?
You know, the the amount of point that the trios of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh as well as Durant, Westbrook, and Harden combined for during the playoffs, for their respective teams. Well with 36 for Durant, 27 for Westbrook, and even just 5 for Harden - the Thunder trio still managed to combine for......68 points! It's almost like magic!
As for the Heat trio: 30 for LeBron, 19 for Wade, and 10 for Bosh, means they only combined for 59 points. That's not gonna get it done. Guess what? If they would have reached 70 - the game is tied. They reach 72, the Heat win. It's simple math.

2) Kevin Durant was absolutely amazing, and looked like the best player in the world.
17 points in the 4th quarter - like he does it on the regular......oh wait.
36 points on 60% shooting. 8 rebounds, 4 assists.

LeBron, we can all agree wasn't as impressive right?
He only had 30 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists.

Yeah, you're reading that right. One guy: "out of this world." The other guy: "okay."
The difference: 6 points.
You tell me what that means.

Can"t wait till game 2.

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