NBA Finals

Heat vs Thunder: OKC Must Force Force LeBron and D-Wade to Shoot Jumpers

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 17:  Dwyane Wade #3 and LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat walk up court in the first quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Three of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 17, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2012

If the Oklahoma City Thunder want to even this series against the Miami Heat, they need but perform one task: Force LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to shoot jumpers.

Easier said than done, I know.

There are a number of reasons why the Heat find themselves up two games to one in this series. Shane Battier has been a revelation for Miami, James Harden has been wildly inconsistent for Oklahoma City and the Heat have shot much better from the charity stripe.

But in Game 3 especially, the Heat—really, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade—drove the lane with relative ease. Consider this stat from CBS: "At one point during Game 3, 62 of Miami’s 76 points came inside the lane or at the free-throw line."

That's a recipe for disaster against most teams, but it's a death sentence against Miami, especially when you consider the following (from ESPN):

The Heat shot 17.7 percent (6-of-34) from 10 feet and beyond in Game 3 against the Thunder. That's the worst field-goal percentage from such distances for the Heat in a game since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the team. The Heat's previous low was 24.0 percent (12-of-50), done in a Game 5 loss to the Celtics this postseason. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to go 3-of-22 (13.6 percent) from 10-plus feet in Game 3.

The shot chart tells the story.

It did in Game 2 as well, when LeBron scored 18 of his 20 points off of field goals from inside the paint. Trying to hold down the best basketball player in the world is no easy task, but if LeBron keeps getting to the basket at will, this series may not leave Miami.

Forcing LeBron and D-Wade is the easiest way to slow down Miami's offense, plain and simple. It's become apparent that this Oklahoma City team, talented as they are, can't simply try to outscore Miami.

Frankly, the Heat's defense has steadily improved over the three games and is making this series more of a grind than the fluid, offensive display the Thunder would prefer.

No, the Thunder's rotations will need to be a step faster, they'll need to be more effective staying in front of the Heat slashers and they need to try, somehow, to keep the Heat off the line.

It's all a tall order, I get that. Nobody said this would be easy. But the Thunder are capable, and I fully expect them to rebound with a solid effort in Game 4.

Solid effort or not, however, if they don't keep the Heat's superstars out of the lane, they'll find themselves facing elimination after tonight.

 

 

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