NBA Finals: Thunder need stronger start to hold home-court advantage
vs. Miami at 8 tonight in Game 2
The Thunder came back from a 13-point deficit on Tuesday and beat the Miami Heat 105-94 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
As the younger, quicker team, the Thunder have the luxury of being able to come back like that. But they shouldn't count on that ability to win games.
Whether the slow start by OKC was a product of nerves or something else, they can't spot the Heat double-digit leads and expect to win the NBA championship.
Thunder forward Kevin Durant scored 17 points in the fourth quarter of Game 1, proving he can score at will against the Heat. Durant needs to establish that earlier in the game.
The Heat started the game off small, starting 6-foot-8 forwards Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem at power forward and center, respectively, with forward LeBron James guarding Thunder center Kendrick Perkins.
This left the Thunder too slow to handle the Heat's lineup. When the Thunder took the game over in the second half, they used a small lineup of their own with 6-foot-10 veteran forward Nick Collison at center.
Collison made a lasting impression, scoring eight points and grabbing an impressive 10 rebounds — five of them offensive — in just 21 minutes of playing time. However, his more important impact happened off the stat sheet, where his hustle and willingness to hit the deck for loose balls extended many possessions for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City would be well served to return to this lineup sooner rather than later in Game 2.
Coach Scott Brooks also took a risk by not putting defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha on James earlier in the game. Sefolosha stuck all over James in the fourth quarter, holding the three-time league MVP to just seven points while OKC outscored Miami, 31-21, in the final 12 minutes.
To beat the Heat again, the Thunder need to get over their nerves and start as strong as they finished Game 1.
Going to Miami for Game 3 up 2-0 would be infinitely better than tied 1-1.