The Oklahoma City Thunder nearly stole Game 2 of the 2012 NBA Finals from the Miami Heat. The thrilling 100-96 finish at Chesapeake Arena overshadowed several weaknesses the Thunder suffered from against the potent Heat. In order to compete in Game 3 and beyond, they must address them immediately.
Firstly, the Thunder must limit the three-pointers. Miami made six of them Thursday with five coming from Shane Battier. Battier has been an x-factor for Miami in the playoffs. He has a knack of making timely and clutch shots. Moreover, three-pointers generate momentum and can alter the course of a game.
If the Thunder can cut the three-pointer out of Miami’s game, they will have a much better chance of winning.
Secondly, Oklahoma City cannot afford to dig itself into deep holes like it did in the first quarter of Game 2. The Heat were on fire in the first period, storming out to an 18-2 lead with 4:39 to play and leading 27-15 at the end of the period.
Indeed, if not for a valiant and furious comeback from OKC in the fourth quarter, the game wouldn’t have been close. Basketball is a game of streaks and momentum. The Heat have enough athleticism and explosiveness as is. If you let them pull away, it’s almost impossible to beat them. For OKC, a priority in Game 3 has to be keeping the game close.
It sounds obvious, of course. But slowing down the offense, utilizing timeouts and playing within themselves will help in preventing big deficits for OKC. A team does its best when everyone does their job, nothing more and nothing less.
Lastly, OKC needs to limit Chris Bosh. The Big Three combined for 72 points in Game 2. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are going to get their buckets. The Thunder should focus on making Bosh as irrelevant as possible because if he is on, the Heat are close to unbeatable.
In Game 1 Bosh played 34 minutes and scored 10 points, compared to 40 minutes and 16 in Game 2. If the Thunder can neutralize Bosh, they will force Miami to utilize other players to beat them. If Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller or Udonis Haslem steps up, well at least the Heat earned it. OKC can’t let the Big Three roll.
Beating the Heat in Miami will be tough. But the Thunder can do it if they play within themselves and force Miami to go to their bench. If not, expect the Heat to roll in South Beach.