Man, this series is off to a great start.
Even when the Heat went up 16-2, you knew at some point, the Thunder would make it into a game. Oklahoma City waited almost the whole game, but they didn’t disappoint.
The biggest difference I saw in last night’s game compared to Game 1 was the help LeBron James got from his All-Star teammates. James has done what should be expected of him, if not more, in both games of the NBA Finals, but last night Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh came to play too. The “Bosh-a-saurus” scored 16 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, 7 of those on the offensive end, and seems to be playing with an even higher level of confidence than before he went down with the injury. Wade finally woke up and scored 24 points. Even though his stat line wasn’t too much better than what he put up in Game 1, it just seemed like Wade was more into the game, and more focused last night.
For the Thunder, the slow start was the killer. If you throw out the initial 16-2 Heat run, OKC won the game 94-84. After they lost the first quarter, they tied the second and won the next two, but only the final score decides the winner. The Thunder are capable of closing large deficits, they’ve show it all postseason, but they can’t keep putting themselves in that position, not in the NBA Finals, and especially not for the next 3 games in Miami.
Down the stretch, it’s amazing how many different ways the game could have gone. I’m not just talking about the last shot by Durant and the questionable non-foul call, I’ll get to that in a second. One of the biggest plays of the game came with 5 minutes left. The Thunder had just scored on 3 straight possessions and closed the gap to 4. They had all the momentum and the roof on the arena was about to blow off. At this point, I thought OKC had the game right where they wanted it. Then Shane Battier heaved up a prayer from 26 feet that banked in. Even though Kevin Durant was able to answer a few seconds later with a 3 of his own, I felt like that shot from Battier really killed any chances the Thunder had of winning. Battier was the unsung hero for the Heat last night, not only because of his miracle bank shot, but he was 5-7 from outside the arc and scored 17 points. The Thunder are going to have to game plan for that going forward.
Towards the end of the game, even though the Thunder were down 7 with 53 seconds to go, they still had a chance to tie it at the end after a furious push. Yes, LeBron James clearly made contact with Durant on his shot and no one would have an argument with a foul being called there, but not blowing the whistle wasn’t the worst missed call I’ve ever seen. At the end of the game, unless it’s a blatant hack, I like to see the refs stay out of it and just let the players play. That’s what happened last night. Durant knew he got hit but also knew it was still a shot he could have made. Baited by reporters during the postgame press conference, his only reply was “I missed the shot, man.” Also, as John Karalis pointed out in his Starting 5 this morning, there’s no guarantee that a foul call there wins the game for the Thunder anyway. It’s best to just move on and focus on Game 3.
Moving forward, if the Thunder want to steal any of the games in Miami and bring the series back to Oklahoma City, they’re going to need some help for their Big 3. Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden combined for 80 of the team’s 96 points in Game 2. Someone else is going to have to step up and hit some big shots like Battier did for the Heat last night.
Now the series heads to Miami tied 1-1. We probably won’t see the same crowd energy in South Florida, but hopefully the drama we’ve already witnessed continues. The groundwork is set for an epic NBA Finals.