As some of you know, I spent last night at the game on press row. I was also able to drop in on a few press conferences after the game. It was definitely a unique experience.
There were a few things about last night's game that stood out to me, so let's hear what some of the players and coaches had to say about what went down.
1) MIAMI'S ROLE PLAYERS: Shane Battier seemed indomitable in the first half (13 points on 5-6 shooting at halftime), probably due to the amount of aggression Miami came out with and their ability to find their way to the basket. Battier wasn't the only player outside of the Heat's "big three" that had a successful night, however. Chalmers was equally as deadly when left open (10 points on 4-6 shooting in the first half), though he is always capable of finding his own shot when he has to. Also, Udonis Haslem wasn't great in terms of scoring (4 points all night), but killed it on the boards in the first half (9 total rebounds).
As strong as these guys played in the first half though, all of them dropped off after halftime.
- THAT'S WHAT HE SAID: "Well, we'll have to find a way to get them in spots where they'll be effective. Mario is somebody that can be aggressive for us to put the ball on the floor and make plays. Shane is more of a recipient, so when the other guys are attacking, sometimes he's a beneficiary of that. We didn't attack as much in the second half." - Erik Spoelstra.
2) THE THUNDER CAME OUT THE GATES SHOOTING POORLY: Kevin Durant was tough from the word go (11 points on 4-6 shooting in the first quarter) and scored the Thunder's first 8 points. That being said, it wasn't a great start for anyone outside of a 35 jersey. In the first quarter, the Thunder shot just 47.4% from the field. However, if you subtract Kevin Durant from that equation, the Thunder's shot a repulsive 38.7%.
Really, it was a struggling Westbrook and Harden that landed OKC in a hole early.
- THAT'S WHAT HE SAID: "You know, just being in The Finals, we kind of was nervous, I guess. That's something we can't -- it can't happen next game or the rest of the series. Just got to come out with a lot of energy, and hopefully we do it next game. But I really couldn't tell you why." - Kevin Durant.
3) RUSSELL WESTBROOK'S SECOND HALF SURGE: As just stated, Westbrook started the game in a less than spectacular offensive capacity (2-5 shooting for 6 points in the first half), though he did do a good job as distributor. Good Russell Westbrook definitely checked in for the second half, however. This season Russell really showed an improved ability to "flip the switch" in the middle of the game and he showed it in the first game of The Finals (18 points on 7-4 shooting with an added 6 rebounds and 5 assists in the second half).
- THAT'S WHAT HE SAID: "The thing about Westbrook is he'll just keep coming, so it doesn't matter time, score of the game or what just happened in the play before. He's going to continue to be relentless, and we have to match that relentlessness, and we have that ability. But he had some key plays there in the fourth." - Erik Spoelstra.
4) THE THUNDER WON WITH HUSTLE: Though the Thunder's shooting struggles in the first period have been well documented, I never really got the feeling that came out shying away from the spotlight or weren't able to handle the big stage. I saw them break up passes. I saw them diving for loose balls. The Thunder won both the fastbreak scoring battle (against Miami, no less) and the points in the paint battle. Frankly, I thought the Thunder looked like they wanted it more. At the least, they looked to be the healthier team. Dwyane Wade doesn't appear to be 100% and there were a few times in the game last night that Chris Bosh was visibly hobbled.
LeBron is Superman, but can he do it alone for a whole game? That's a tall order, even for the league's MVP.
- THAT'S WHAT HE SAID: "Well, we talked about a few things on offense, good screens, good ball movement, good spacing, forceful cuts, but we really talked about doing the little things. Those are the little things that we have to do, and it's little things are not for the guys that are the role players, little things are for all our players. Kevin has to be a little thing type of player, setting the screen, getting a rebound, diving on the floor. We dove on the floor and got a couple jump balls, which was good." - Scott Brooks