NBA Finals 2012: Role Players Who Must Step Up for Heat and Thunder
The stars are stealing the headlines in the 2012 NBA Finals, but it's the role players who will make all the difference in what will continue to be a closely-contested set of games.
However, Shane Battier and Nick Collison were two sparkplugs for the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, even if the media attention wasn't quite as focused on them.
So, who are the role players who must step up for each team during the remaining games of the Finals?
Game 1 Stats: 17 points, four rebounds, one steal in 42 minutes
Shane Battier was a huge reason that the Miami Heat were able to jump out to an early lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the opening game of the 2012 NBA Finals.
The veteran small forward played like a much younger man and scored 13 early points while playing good, but not great, defense. Battier was able to spot up in his sweet spots and hit triple after triple after the Miami guards and LeBron penetrated into the interior of the Thunder defensive lines.
It's unlikely that Battier is as efficient throughout the rest of the series, but a few early shots from downtown would help spread out the defense and allow the stars on the team to drive with much more ease.
Game 1 Stats: Eight points, 10 rebounds, one steal in 21 minutes
If you're looking for the underrated sparkplug of Game 1, look no further than Nick Collison. In only 21 minutes of action, Collison was remarkably active on the boards, pulling down 10 in that short time.
Collison took advantage of the Heat's complete lack of interior defense and his eight points were the unheralded difference-makers to beat the Heat in the second half.
There's no reason that Collison should slow down unless the Heat start giving more minutes to Joel Anthony. He must continue to play with his trademark intensity and punish the Heat for their softness inside.
Game 1 Stats: Six points, three rebounds, one assist in 25 minutes
Derek Fisher's physicality on the defensive end was more of an annoyance than anything else in Game 1, but he has to continue to apply the heavy pressure when he's in the game.
I'd also like to see Fisher show up a little bit more often on offense. The veteran point guard failed to connect from three-point range and only attempted a single shot from downtown.
Fisher needs to find the open spots and let fly when given the opportunity so that he can open up the court.
Game 1 Stats: Four points, 11 rebounds in 29 minutes
Although Udonis Haslem crashed the boards successfully, that was just about the only thing that he did well during Game 1.
Haslem must step up more on offense and actually give the Heat a legitimate threat in the post. With Chris Bosh playing on the perimeter more than ever, it's an absolute necessity that Miami sets up a viable threat in the paint.
Moreover, he has to stay patient on defense and be the last line of the troops to slow the Thunder attack.
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