The Thunder are ahead in the Finals, 1-0, and that is all that it is, really. One win after one game. They must continue to apply their advantages over the Heat, and those advantages played themselves out quite obviously in the 2nd half. OKC played faster, hungrier, and more calm than the Heat did. On to Game 2.
From hot to cold.
LeBron James started out the game by guarding Kendrick Perkins. Was this an early tip of the hand by Erik Spoelstra? I think he is legitimately concerned about his team's fatigue at this point after two back-to-back physical series in the East.
We've occasionally called Russell Westbrook a mini-LeBron here, and Westbrook's stat line showed us why. He handed out 11 assists, and the HP crew takes a look at each one of them.
Abbott writes that Kevin Durant scored the ball so efficiently against the swarming Heat defense that it barely seemed like he was exerting himself at all. I think that is a big compliment to the way Durant has refined his offensive game so that poor shot selection is a thing of the past.
Here is the relevant aspect to me. Durant may not be Lebron's equal, but he's not that far off. However, If their production turns into a nightly wash, the question then becomes, who is better - Westbrook or Dwyane Wade? And if Wade somehow manages to raise his performance, the question becomes, Harden or Bosh? And if THAT question turns out to be a wash, the question becomes Ibaka or Haslem?
Many more links after the jump.
The Heat are taking notes, but what should concern them more is the seeming lack of urgency they displayed in the 4th quarter. Where they tired, unfocused, or just simply outplayed?
Maybe it is just me, but I find Stein's assertion about the Thunder in this post to be a bit patronizing. He argues that the Thunder players, young as they are, to be mostly oblivious to the stakes at hand, and that naivete is a bonus to them. We've been following the Thunder squad for several years now, and the one thing that I would never call them is 'naive.' I think they know exactly what is going on, which is what fuels them and makes them work hard.
But the bottom line of these playoffs is this: Nobody can stop the Thunder scoring machine, and until someone can begin to even limit it just a little for 48 minutes, there is really nothing else to discuss.
Westbrook never abandoned his attacking style even when he struggled, and why should he? He has the match-up advantage over Chalmers, Wade, or anybody else who tries to check him. He just has to maintain his concentration to finish the plays right.
You might have seen this play unfold real-time, but you have to watch it in slow-motion to really appreciate Thabo Sefolosha's no-look pass.
Dwyane Wade has seen a dropoff in his production as his age (30) and health has begun to work against him. Doyel writes that Wade has not responded well.
It is funny to think it, but there are a legion of casual NBA fans who are tuning into these Finals to watch LeBron James and are coming across the idea of Kevin Durant for the very first time.
Here are a few varied perspectives on what the Thunder and Heat can do better moving forward in Game 2.
Strauss asks this question in earnest, and I see his point. If Miami crashes on Durant out of the pindown screens, it leaves big man cutters like Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison unfettered as they run to the rim. Wouldn't it be better to go underneath the screen and challenge Durant to consistently make that 15 footer?
I'm sorry, I don't think I can even write that with a straight face. To Durant, open 15 footers are like layups.
Dirk Nowitzki continues to impress me with the way he can both self-evaluate as well as treat his peers with so much respect.
Apologies to any Li'l Wayne fans out there, but I think it's about time that he makes himself scarce at the Chesapeake. Clearly his sense of entitlement is not going to be celebrated there.
This is the iconic moment of last night's win, courtesy Mike Prada.
(click for animated fun)