By John Schmeelk
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With two games of the NBA Finals in the books, here are some of my thoughts on the current state of the series and beyond as this star-studded quest for the title continues on Sunday evening.
- How great has the first two games of this NBA Finals been? This is what basketball is all about, and this series can’t go long enough. (I do think it will only go four more games.)
- The Thunder can’t keep getting themselves into these early holes. Once they get rolling, I believe that they are clearly the better team in this series. But going down double digits in the first half is only going to make things tougher for them going forward.
- Naturally, the day after I write that the Thunder’s offense might be unstoppable, they shoot only 43 percent and score fewer than 100 points. They shot way over 50 percent in the second half, but their 34 percent-first half killed them. Something tells me that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will not combine to shoot 5-for-19 in another half this series. I also doubt that the Thunder will again be kept out of transition like they were in the first half of Game 2.
- The main culprit in the Thunder’s first half in Game 2 (besides poor shooting from Durant and Westbrook) was bad defense. The Heat shot 48 percent from the field and got to the line 11 times in the first half, while out-rebounding the Thunder by four. The Heat just looked like they had more energy, something that the Thunder should have been prepared for since the Heat were in desperation mode down 1-0. The one weakness that the Thunder have is their defense, and it was apparent in the first half on Thursday night. The Heat got to the basket way too easily and turned it over only five times. Their defense improved in the second half, as they forced eight Miami turnovers and held them to ten fewer points. If the Thunder can figure out how to play their best for an entire game, they can take one of these contests by 20.
- With their improved defense in the fourth quarter, the Heat needed to make some extremely difficult shots to win the game. On this particular night, they made them. James Jones hit a contested leaner while going across the lane, Dwyane Wade’s fadeaway from 17 feet bounced in from just beyond the free-throw line, LeBron James hit a very tough pull-up banker and Shane Battier nailed a miracle-banker three. Those shots are not going to go in every night.
- The Heat need to improve their execution in the fourth quarter and stop degenerating into one-on-one play if they want to win this series. I doubt that will happen, since it is a pattern that has held since last year. A team rarely wins when they take contested jump shots at the end of close games. That’s what the Heat tend to do.
- The Heat also have Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh outplaying their Oklahoma City counterparts. Dwyane Wade was just a little better than Russell Westbrook and Chris Bosh outplayed everyone on the Thunder’s front line. That trend must continue if the Heat want to win the series.
- Yes, you saw Derek Fisher, the geriatric one, knock it away from Dwyane Wade late in the fourth quarter. I couldn’t believe it either.
- Yes, LeBron James fouled Kevin Durant on his final shot. He fouled him twice, actually. The first one came on the right arm when Durant started to elevate. The second came when James slammed his arm down on Durant’s knee. James received a favorable call earlier in the fourth quarter when Thabo Sefolosha was called for a foul after LeBron drove around him. That goal tend call on Serge Ibaka was also a bad one, since he only hit the ball after it was below the rim. By rule, that should not be a goal tend.
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