Thunder vs. Heat: Key Advantages for Both Teams in Game 5

Alex FieldCorrespondent IIJune 20, 2012

OKC must run the fast break effectively in Game 5.
OKC must run the fast break effectively in Game 5.Pool/Getty Images

With the Miami Heat holding a 3-1 series lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder, both teams will have to use distinct advantages to capture a victory.

To begin with, the Thunder must get back to their up-tempo offense.

After ranking fifth in the NBA in fast-break points per game, the Thunder have been off-and-on when it comes to running the fast break in this series.

At times, they have looked superb in transition, flowing smoothly between their plethora of young talent. The fact of the matter is the fast break hasn’t been a big enough part of their game in this series.

In Game 1, the Thunder found success in the open floor, racking up 24 fast-break points to the Heat’s four, according to ESPN .

The Thunder are simply a more athletic team than the Heat and they should be using the fast break to their advantage. When they are able to control the tempo and can get out and run, they are really difficult to slow down.

Not to mention, Russell Westbrook’s game really caters to a faster style of play, as Westbrook struggles at times to make plays in a half-court offense.

Along with the fast break, the Thunder should hold an advantage on the glass against Miami. Nonetheless, Oklahoma City has been out-rebounded in each game it has lost.

Not surprisingly in its Game 1 victory, it had a plus-8 margin on the boards.

With low-post players Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder should find solace in facing a notoriously poor rebounder in Chris Bosh, who averaged 7.9 boards per game in the regular season.

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 19:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat gestures on court in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Four of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 19, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. The HEat won 104-98.NOTE T
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

LeBron James has been a matchup nightmare for the Thunder, especially on the glass, where he is averaging a cool 10 boards per game.

If the Thunder can hit the glass hard and get rebounding contributions from everyone, rather than just Perkins and Ibaka, OKC could bounce back in Game 5.

As for the Heat, their main advantage revolves around the fact that they have the NBA's most valuable player on their team.

James has a certain demeanor about him during these playoffs: focused, intense, yet cool and collected. With his first ring only one win away, expect James to be locked in more than ever before.

With the amount of criticism swirling around him before the season, LBJ has not only responded, but has played some of his best basketball down the stretch.

He turned in a 26-point, nine-rebound and 12-assist performance in Game 4, and if that’s any indication, James will dominate even more with a title on the line.

The Thunder have had no answer for James in this series, as the 26 points are the fewest James has scored all series.

With James attacking the hoop and working inside-out, the Heat will be one step closer to a championship.

The other facet Miami holds a distinct advantage in is perimeter scoring.

With Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers and James Jones, the Heat boast a second unit that can come in and provide big-time shots from outside the arc.

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 19:  Mario Chalmers #15 of the Miami Heat drives for a shot attempt in the second half against Nick Collison #4 and James Harden #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Four of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 19, 2012 at American Airlines Ar
Pool/Getty Images

Nonetheless, the shots must be falling for the Heat, as they have been so far this series.

Miami has gotten some big minutes out of a few of its role players and that trend has basically given the Heat an edge in this series. Between Chalmers and Battier, the Heat have found a fourth option to keep the Thunder defense at bay.

As James Harden has disappeared in this series, the Thunder’s only other role players are Derek Fisher, who recorded only one steal in the box score in Game 4, and Nick Collison.

Both of those players don’t compare to the options Miami has off of its bench and those players could make the difference for the Heat.

With solid contributions from its bench, Miami may hoist the trophy after Game 5.