The Oklahoma City Thunder overcame early nerves to register a Game 1 victory over the Miami Heat 105-94. Join us for Game 2 of the series to see if the Heat can square up the NBA Finals from 11am AEST.
In their first ever appearance on the Finals stage, Kevin Durant (36 points, 8 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (27 points, 11 assists) turned in performances that are more common among savvy veterans.
With the game in the balance Durant reminded us once again why he is considered the league’s best closer, blitzing LeBron James (30 points, 9 rebounds) and Dwyane Wade’s (19 points, 8 assists) Miami Heat for 17 fourth quarter points and ultimately sealing the Game 1 victory.
Before a minute played we knew that for Miami to win the NBA Championship they had to defeat the Thunder in Oklahoma city, an arena where the Thunder remain undefeated in the Playoffs.
That requirement hasn’t changed, but after their Game 1 defeat the Heat not only have the current odds stacked against them, they’re out of favor with history as well. In the past 15 years the Game 1 winner has gone on to win the Championship 73.3% of the time.
What stood out in Game 1 was Miami’s inability to take advantage of their strong start. After the first quarter the Thunder would outscore the Heat by 18 points. In the second half alone, Westbrook (18 points) and Durant (23 points) would outscore Miami 41-40. Once the outside scoring dried up, Miami folded like the Finals team of a year ago.
In the opening quarter, Miami made 8 of 14 jump shots outside of 15 feet, with Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier doing most of the damage. From that point on the Heat would only make 7 of their next 34 attempts from the same range, with the trio of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade combing for just 6 of 23 shooting (26%).
The Thunder meanwhile sourced 60% of their made field goals via either layups or dunks. Teams often live and die by the jump shot.
Oklahoma decided to take things into their own hands and get to the rim, dominating Miami inside the paint 56-40. What’s worse for the Heat is that their main interior weapon on the offensive end now thinks he is Reggie Miller. Of Chris Bosh’s 11 field goal attempts, only one would be inside 15 feet.
Two players each team can expect improvement from today are James Harden and Dwyane Wade. Harden suffered from early foul trouble in Game 1 and failed to find a rhythm, finishing with just five points, his lowest offensive output since January 16th.
Wade on the other hand again failed to establish himself early, and is now shooting just 26% in the first half in his last 8 Playoff appearances. Miami need four consistent quarters from the 2006 Finals MVP if they’re going to have any chance of stealing Game 2.
In Game 1 I saw a Heat team who failed to cash in on Oklahoma’s slow start. They showed a lack of urgency to get to the rim, and succumbed to another fourth quarter meltdown. At the beginning of the series the main knock on the Thunder was their lack of experience at this level.
This looked to be an issue once the game was underway, but was a complete non-factor in the second half. Despite a virtual no-show from James Harden, the Thunder were still able to account for the Heat rather comfortably. I see more room for improvement for Oklahoma than I do Miami.
Outside of a 50-15-10 special from LeBron James (never rule it out), I see no reason why the Thunder won’t take their talents to South Beach with a 2-0 lead…