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NBA Finals 2012: Adjustments OKC Thunder Must Make to Return in 2013

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 21:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder looks on during his post game press conference after they lost 121-106 against the Miami Heat in Game Five of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 21, 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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John RozumCorrespondent ISeptember 2, 2016

The Oklahoma City Thunder won't get back to the NBA Finals without making multiple adjustments/improvements to their game.

The Miami Heat played suffocating defense, were aggressive on offense, and forced Oklahoma City into being inefficient at both ends of the floor. One prime example was the Thunder's three-point consistency.

OKC performed well during the regular season, but failed to connect at an effective rate to last longer than five games. And that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Here, let's see where the Thunder must also improve in addition to shooting from downtown, so OKC can return to the big stage in 2013.

 

Ball Movement

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder runs up court against the Miami Heat in Game Five of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 21, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and a
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

During the 2011-12 regular season the Oklahoma City Thunder ranked No. 30 in assists, averaging just 18.5 per game. So against a strong defensive team like Miami, who ranked No. 4 in points allowed, it was no surprise the Thunder lost.

Against any defense, the offense has to move the rock consistently in order to keep opponents off balance. Now, having the superior athletes that OKC has, ball movement isn't required as often. However, versus a strong defensive team and a team with just as good if not better athletes, the Thunder were exposed.

For the entire series, OKC averaged just 15.8 assists per game and just three times did the Thunder pass below their regular season average. In Game 1, Oklahoma City recorded 22 assists and won 105-94. It was the only game where the Thunder hit above 20 assists and it's no surprise they took the opening game.

Miami then adjusted and took over from there, while OKC failed to effectively move the ball in Games 2-5. With their athletes, though, if the Thunder improve at dishing the rock then they will roll next season.


Defense

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 19:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thnder defends in the second half against LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat in Game Four of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 19, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User e
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

When the ball isn't moving, that causes more turnover opportunities for the opposition and in turn, having to defend more than wanted. Well, OKC's defense is another area Miami exposed during the 2012 NBA Finals.

Allowing an average of 96.9 per game during the season, the Thunder gave up an average of 102 points per game to Miami. Considering how well the Heat play defense themselves, Oklahoma City's offense failed to match Miami's offense.

And even though the Heat didn't assist that much either, Miami knew it could rely on its own defense. OKC however, was attacked early and often (only led after the first quarter in one game) and simply couldn't match up.

Whether it's zone or man, the Thunder have to improve in both aspects. Rotating, challenging shots, and anticipating better must happen next season. Otherwise, Western Conference offenses like San Antonio, Denver, Utah and even Sacramento will expose OKC all year long.


3-Point Consistency

One aspect that significantly suffered from the lack of ball movement was Oklahoma City's consistency from downtown.

The regular season was kind to OKC from long range as the team hit 35.8 percent beyond the arc (ranked No. 11). Unfortunately, that took a nosedive in the finals and the Thunder connected below that average in the first four games.

Looking at the entire series, Oklahoma City failed to hit 30 percent three times. This is a byproduct of not being able to move the ball and dish to an open man. Game 5 was great from the arc with a 39.3 percentage, but it took 28 attempts to make that happen.

The Thunder possess the ability to drive the lane and draw fouls with their athletes. As an offensive-oriented team, OKC can really get an opponent on its heels by working the paint and around the elbow.

That then opens up the occasion J from the arc and keeps the ball moving as well. In short, more controlled and efficient possessions for the Thunder to develop their defense.

 

John Rozum on Twitter.

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