The Thunder: A Second Half Team

 Prior to the beginning of game 1, ABC opened to the commentary of ESPN NBA broadcasters: Ervin “Magic” Johnson, Jon Barry, Michael Walton, and Chris Broussard. It was the Heat’s third NBA Finals appearance, and for the Thunder, previously known as the Seattle SuperSonics, it was the franchise’s fourth Finals appearance. Out of their prior three Finals appearances they won the title in 1979. As the Oklahoma City Thunder though it was their first NBA Finals series. The broadcasters saw this series as LeBron James, the NBA’s 2011-2012 MVP, against Kevin Durant, the NBA’s Leading Scorer. The difference maker on the Thunder during the pre-game was Russell Westbrook. For the Heat their difference makers were Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Bosh was important because his play on the offensive sit opened up the floor for LeBron and Wade.

Miami’s head coach Erik Spoelstra had Chris Bosh come off of the Bench as a sixth man. For his starting line-up he went with Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier, and LeBron James. The Thunder’s starting line-up was Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka, and Kevin Durant. From the beginning of the game the Heat were shooting very well from behind the three-point line. Those threes could be attributed to the play of Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers. Battier shot 3-3 from the behind the three-point line in the first half. Chalmers shot 2-3 from behind the three-point line in the first half. Despite Durant coming out shooting very well from the beginning, the Heat maintained a lead well into the 2nd half. At the end of both the 1st and 2nd quarters the Thunder were down by seven points. Thanks to the help of LeBron’s 14 points, 4, steals, and 4 rebounds. Miami’s great play also included their 6-10 three-pointers. For the first half Westbrook didn’t produce enough offensively, only shooting 3-10 from the field and a turnover. The Thunder shot a higher percentage in the first half but their eight turnovers didn’t help them gain a lead.

The second half the Thunder played with more defensive intensity and lost those first half NBA Finals nerves they had from the start. Durant continued to be a big help to the Thunder’s offense. There was one particular stretch in the 3rd quarter where the Thunder had scored seven straight field goals. The Thunder out-hustled Miami with 20 fast break points, much higher than Miami’s 4. The Thunder also acquired more points in the paint than the Heat 34-26 in the third quarter. Late in the third the Thunder took their first lead of the game. In the fourth the Thunder came out playing off of their 1-point lead and not letting up. They started the fourth with an 8-2 run and at one point during the 4th the Heat didn’t score any field goals for almost 6 minutes. Throughout the game Sefolosha had been playing very solid defense and his offense also picked up scoring 8 points. Another key player late in the game was Nick Collison who scored 8 points and had 10 rebounds. In the second half Westbrook and Durant combined came close to scoring more points than the Heat did in the second half. The Thunder’s second half play helped them win the game with a double-digit lead of 105-94. LeBron finished the game with 30 points and Wade finished with 19.

During post game interviews coach Scott Brooks was asked about Durant’s defense and he responded saying, “KD is a special player because he defends and we are a good team because we defend.” Erik Spoelstra during his post-game interview referred to the Thunder saying, “They beat us at their game and beat us in a game that’s very similar to our game.” Now, with game 1 behind both the Thunder and the Heat, can the Heat make the proper defensive adjustments? Can the Heat get Dwyane Wade to drive more and stop settling for jump shots? Will Erik Spoelstra start Chris Bosh? Or can the Thunder continue to dominate Miami with their second half offense and defense? Find out on ABC this Thursday at 9pmET for game 2 of the 2012 NBA Finals.

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