NBA Finals 2012: Keys to an Oklahoma City Thunder Comeback
Their journey isn't a lost cause, though, as the Thunder are a resilient, youthful bunch and aren't worried about how unkind history has been to teams in a 3-1 hole.
It won't be easy, but the Thunder have the ability to come back from the brink. They'll have to do a few things to make this a series, though.
Here are three of those things.
Keep the Faith
I'm sure you remember when the Thunder went down two games to none in the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. Analysts and fans all over the country conceded that the young Zombies were finished, that they had no chance to come back and that the Spurs would be moving on to meet the Miami Heat or the Boston Celtics.
Things didn't play out that way, though, and Kevin Durant led the Thunder storming back to win the next four games and send the Spurs to the golf course.
A 3-1 deficit is much scarier than a 2-0 deficit. At 2-0, a team's back isn't yet against the wall and there is at least some margin for error. But there is no such margin on the brink of elimination and heartbreak.
The Thunder need to keep in the back of their minds that they are capable of coming back and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. They did it against the Spurs, who were on a roll and hadn't lost in about two months, and they can certainly do it against the Heat.
Stick to the Gameplan
The Thunder haven't gotten anything at all from James Harden in their three losses, but they must not stray from giving him the ball. There's a reason he won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year, and he didn't forget how to play basketball overnight.
Oklahoma City has a better record when Russell Westbrook takes more shots, but I don't buy that the Thunder are a better team when Westbrook is leading the offense. His Game 4 performance was one of the best the NBA Finals have ever seen, but that's not the way the Thunder are going to win.
LeBron James is one of the best defensive players in the league, but Durant can shoot over him. He can create space and get around him, and he can get him in to foul trouble (if the refs will have it). If Durant is constantly going at LeBron, his increased foul total will impact the rest of his game.
Scott Brooks would be best advised to have his team go run-and-gun for the remainder of this series. Turning the game into a transition matchup usually isn't a good idea against the Heat, but this is a different story.
The Heat need James and Dwyane Wade firing on all cylinders to be the best transition team in the league. Something is definitely wrong with Wade right now, whether it be lingering injuries or something else, and there has been throughout the entire postseason. When LeBron is without his running mate, he's much less effective.
Don't Forget About the Supporting Cast
Oklahoma City can't forget about its role players on offense or the Heat's role players on defense.
Nobody who entered the game for the Thunder scored more than eight points other than Durant and Westbrook. Harden scored eight, Nick Collison contributed six, Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins chipped in for 13 points combined. That's not going to cut it.
The Thunder need to run their offense through their big three, but they can't neglect the rest of the roster.
What is your prediction for the series?
On a side note: how does Derek Fisher play 22 minutes, take one shot and contribute nothing but one steal?
On defense, the Thunder really fudged the bucket in Game 4. Specifically in regard to Mario Chalmers pouring in 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting. When Chalmers scores 25 points, there's no way that the Heat are going to lose.
The first three games of the series saw Shane Battier go off from behind the three-point line. He didn't put up the same type of numbers in Game 4, but the Thunder need to make his first three performances an anomaly rather than a trend.
If they don't, there is virtually no chance of a comeback.
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