November 17, 2017
Russell Westbrook Is Hungry For More
Photo: The Associated Press
There was so much to go through in our breakdown of Game 1 of the NBA Finals that I could have done 3 breakdowns from all the clips. This one was anticlimactic, as the Thunder iced the game with 3 minutes to go, and the Heat had so many possessions you could file under the “Downright Hot Mess” category. It was tough to pick and choose what we wanted to focus on, but here goes:

It’s reasonable to assume the Thunder were more rusty from the layoff between series than any kind of butterflies or nerves. The Heat took an early 13 point lead, despite some seriously lopsided spacing from their offense. Even though there were many instances of Heat players standing almost next to each other, enabling one Thunder defender to cover two Heat players, Battier and Chalmers were still able to bomb away from three point range.

More After The Breakdown

In the first quarter, if you take out LeBron’s awful 1/5, the rest of the team shot a scalding 9/14, with Battier and Chalmers combining for 6/7. When the Heat get that kind of production from people not named LeBron, Dwyane, or Chris, they’ll be in good shape. But we all know that is not sustainable. In fact, with every Battier make from three point land, he exponentially increases the likelihood he will miss the next one. That said, he was able to maintain a great pace, finishing 6/9 for the game.

Russell Westbrook’s numbers, while at first glance appear great, was merely good. His 27 points took 24 shots to get there, and there were several plays on offense that made me scratch my head. However, his defense was intense, and for the most part, very effective. I know I’ve screamed from the mountaintop that OKC won’t win with him at point guard, he has toned down some of his wild forays to the hoop that leave him on the ground crying to the refs while the other team races down and scores. And he has also cut back slightly his pull up 18 footers without passing to anybody.

Kevin Durant's Shot Chart Courtesy of Synergy Sports
But this was Kevin Durant’s game start to finish. He scored 17 points in the 4th quarter alone and thanks to Synergy Sports, you can see how just about all his shots came from the right side of the floor. What’s also startling is how many layups he took – going 5/6 from such close range. If the Heat have any hope of containing him, and thereby winning a game, they must make him a jump shooter from distance.

With only a day to go over game film and practice, I wonder just how much Spoelstra will be able to clean up. A lot of their mistakes like not picking up their men, or their spacing on offense, should be easily solved with a walk through. The real question is will Dwyane Wade’s knee affect him as much as it so clearly has the last few games? It’s reasonable to assume James Harden will have a much better game in Game 2, so the Heat desperately need an efficient, high scoring effort out of him.

Another matchup Spoelstra seems to be ignoring is Thunder forward Nick Collison guarding Chris Bosh. Not once did they send Bosh down to the post against him to use his quickness to get easy looks at the basket. While I love Nick Collison, he would be no match for Bosh on the right block.

In Game 2, look for the Heat to get Wade, LeBron, and Bosh more post ups. Watch for Oklahoma City to get Harden a few more isolations to get him going. It is unlikely Collison will take that extra run from Serge Ibaka, so I’m sure the Thunder will have him back there protecting the rim in crunch time.

Let’s not forget – the cliches in this instance are true: The Thunder did what they were supposed to do. Win a tight-til-the-end game at home. Game 2 looms large for both teams, as the winner gets control of this series.

Check out our Post Game Chat as well as In Game Tweets from Game 1.

Coach Nick

Coach Nick is the founder of BballBreakdown, coached the Triangle Offense at the high school level, and counts Tex Winter and Pete Newell as mentors. For more of our conversation, follow him @BBALLBREAKDOWN.

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  • I believe that Michael Jordan has made it seem like the best players have to be clutch. That said I still believe Kevin Durant is a better player for his team and he should have been MVP. More points than LeBron in Game 1, less shots than Lebron in Game One. 

  • hi
    where do you want to be covered?
    huffington post?
    do you want a paid job as a sports reporter?

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