NBA Finals 2012: Durant, Thunder Take Game 1, Heat Must Adjust and Start Bosh
If there’s one thing we've learned throughout the playoffs, it’s that once the Thunder get rolling, they can’t be stopped.
They swept the defending champion Mavericks in the first round before cruising past the Lakers in five games. They were then able to not only put an end to the Spurs' 20-game win streak, but also close them out by winning four games in a row.
Things can only get better for the Thunder in the coming games. Durant and Westbrook will maintain their high level of play for the duration of the series while Thabo Sefolosha will remain a defensive force. In addition, James Harden will surely produce more than his measly five points in Game 1.
While it’s never the best idea to judge an entire series off one game, it doesn't look good for the Heat, and a big adjustment will need to be made for Miami to stay competitive with the young Thunder squad.
I've said it from the start, and I’ll say it again now: The Heat will go as far as Chris Bosh takes them.
First and foremost, Bosh has clearly shown capable of producing in a prominent role, and it’s hard to see the Heat winning a series without him.
In the Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics were able to do the most damage when Bosh was sidelined, and his return was a main cause for the Heat advancing. In Game 5, head coach Erik Spoelstra limited Bosh to just 14 minutes in which he scored nine points and grabbed seven boards. Understandably, Coach Spo was being cautious with Bosh returning from injury.
Though, Bosh clearly showed he should be reinserted into the starting lineup later on as his heroics ultimately willed the Heat to a victory in Game 7.
One game into the NBA Finals and Spoelstra still doesn't get it.
Chris Bosh is an All-Star and one of the NBA’s most skilled big men. He's also a matchup nightmare for the Thunder, and nothing would be more nonsensical than to bring him off the bench.
Bosh stretches the floor better than any 6’11 player in the NBA and likes to score most of his points with a consistent, reliable 15- to 18-foot jump shot. Evidently, he also requires the defense to be stretched as best witnessed by his 3-of-4 three-point shooting display to lift the Heat over the Celtics and into the NBA Finals.
Bosh’s ability to stretch the floor clears out much of the clutter in the post and eases the jobs of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to slash to the hoop and score. This is why Bosh is such an essential part of what the Heat do and possesses a uniqueness to be effective on each play, whether he touches the ball or not.
Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka led the NBA with 3.65 blocks per game in the regular season while the next highest tally was just 2.16. With him in the middle, LeBron and Wade would certainly have far more trouble scoring inside and getting to the free-throw line, two things that make them the special players that they are.
The Thunder would love to stick their shot-blocking machine in the post and force LeBron and D-Wade into tough jumpers, but it isn't happening with Chris Bosh camping out on the wings and stretching the ground which the Thunder must cover.
The Heat offense revolves around these two superstars creating their own shots and having guys like Bosh for a kick-out if the drive is well-defended.
Overall, Bosh is the perfect complement to LeBron and/or Wade. He's effective both when they kick it to him for an open shot and when he doesn't have the ball but rather stretches the floor and opens up the inside.
While I understand Spoelstra intending to give Bosh starter’s minutes, the whole point is that he actually plays with James and Wade.
In the first quarter, Bosh entered the game with under five minutes to play and immediately hit a foul-line jumper off a screen set for LeBron’s man.
In the second quarter, at the 8:14 mark, Bosh nailed an open jumper after Ibaka went into the lane to help contest a Wade drive.
While effective, these plays were kept to a minimum as LeBron sat much of the second quarter when Bosh was in the game and vice versa. Had Bosh started the first and second halves, the aforementioned plays could have been multiplied and swung the game in the Heat’s favor. Instead, Bosh sat the bench to start the second half and watched the Thunder make their run that would ultimately give them a leg up in the series.
I realize that Battier had a huge Game 1 and was lights out from downtown, but would Spoelstra really rather stick with a guy who can sporadically catch fire from the three in Battier or trust the guy who has done it all season long?
I’m taking Bosh.
The Heat have won all year with a studded first team and less-than-stellar second unit.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But Spoelstra tried to fix it, and now, he has to fix it back.
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