Jun 12, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Miami Heat point guard Mario Chalmers (15) battles for a loose ball between Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha (2) and Russell Westbrook (0) during the third quarter of game one in the 2012 NBA Finals at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
The Heat's balanced scoring in the first half was fueled by a surprising 13 points from Shane Battier and 3-3 from beyond the arc and LeBron James' 14 points. The Heat were moving the ball crisply, taking their time to find the right man with a clean look at the basket and were pressuring the Thunder enough to reduce them to a mostly jump shooting team with uneven results.
Even with the Heat controlling the first half, the Thunder brought the lead down to 7 points after a huge basket by James Harden at the halftime buzzer. That lead quickly disappeared within the first minutes of the third quarter but the Thunder did not finally take the lead until the end of the third quarter.
Dwyane Wade had another one of those games where his explosiveness was missing and he mostly settled for jump shots, going just 5-19 from the field, but he did have a team-leading 8 assists. In order to beat the Thunder on the road, the Heat needed much more from Chris Bosh, who had just 10 points and 5 rebounds in 34 minutes, and he was not a factor defensively like he was against the Boston Celtics upon his return from injury. The Heat looked sluggish on both ends in the second half and were slow to set up their offense as the Thunder started picking up the pace and kept attacking the basket while making jumper after jumper. Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison and Derek Fisher provided quality minutes in support of Durant and Westbrook.
Part of the overall team slump might have been fatigue, with coach Erik Spoelstra making a curious decision to reduce his rotation to just 7 players after coming off a grueling 7-game series against the Boston Celtics. This may have been due to to the fact that James Jones was held out of the game because of migraine symptoms. Joel Anthony was only used for two minutes and Ronny Turiaf did not play at all.
After the game, LeBron wasn't going to use fatigue as an excuse for letting a winnable game slip out of their fingers.
"I don't think so," he responded. "We know we have to have more production for sure. We have to have more guys in there and give me and D-Wade a rest...and Shane (Battier), he played a lot of minutes. Spo will figure that out. We'll be more conscious about it and just try to get a minute or two here and there so we can finish strong. But I don't think it was much of a problem today."
The Heat still had multiple opportunities in crunch time despite the uneven play from LeBron and Wade in the final quarter to get the deficit down to a one or two possession game but consistently failed to make stops on the defensive end.
As it has happened after every Heat playoff loss, plenty of fingers will be pointed and blame to assign to someone on the team. As impressive as the Thunder are, it was just one game in what is sure to be a long, competitive series. Realistically speaking, tt was going to be borderline impossible to win both games in Oklahoma City. If the Heat can build on the game plan from the first half and be able to stick to it while getting better games from Wade and Bosh (and an aggressive LeBron in crunch time) then they have a solid chance of earning the split with a chance to turn the series around back home.