By Charley Rosen, for NBA.com
Posted Jun 18 2012 9:06PM
This was a game of opposites: For the most part, Miami played poorly and Oklahoma City played well, until the endgame when the Heat stepped up and the Thunder stepped down.
WHAT THE THUNDER DID RIGHT: Played more aggressive perimeter defense than they had thus far in the series.
Unlike Games 1 and 2, they were ready to play from the get-go.
Kevin Durant demonstrated that he could routinely beat LeBron James in one-on-one situations.
After coming off of weak-side screens (both single and double), Durant was easily able to shake free of LBJ's powerhouse (but relatively slow-footed lateral) defense.
Derek Fisher played excellent defensive position.
Thabo Sefolosha showed quick, ball-sniping hands in defense of Dwyane Wade.
Their offensive rebounding improved greatly in the second half.
Durant (11-for-19) and Russell Westbrook (8-18) shot well.
From the field, OKC out-shot (.429 to .378) Miami, and outscored them 33 buckets to 28.
In the second half, OKC succeeded in jamming up LeBron's hitherto unstoppable cross-baseline cuts.
A fourth-quarter perimeter weave generated an open shot for Durant. But why was this play used only once?
WHAT THE THUNDER DID WRONG: Played woeful interior defense and screen-roll defense.
Failed to attack Miami's defense from the side, a tactic that was hugely successful in Game 2.
Once again, Durant showed a tendency to make bad passes while on the move -- five turnovers, zero assists.
Serge Ibaka was too eager to block shots (he had only two), which led to his fouling Shane Battier on an attempted trey. In the third quarter, Ibaka blatantly ignored a wide-open Fisher, choosing to launch (and miss) an 18-footer.
Nobody put a body in front of LeBron on too many of Miami's fastbreak and early-offense opportunities.
In general, OKC's transition defense was lackadaisical.
Missed nine of 24 free throws (.625), a losing number right there.
Scott Brooks made an egregious error near the end of the third quarter. Durant had to be benched after picking up his fourth foul, but Brooks also decided to simultaneously rest Westbrook. Since James Harden was unable to single-handedly carry the offense, the tenor of the game changed dramatically and Miami's surge was virtually irresistible.
In the endgame, the Thunder missed makeable layups, threw bad passes, committed ill-advised fouls, foolishly dribbled into crowds, suffered several costly miscommunications, and forced several shots.
WHAT THE THUNDER NEED TO DO: Play a collapsing zone defense that packs the middle.
Go under every high screen-roll that doesn't feature Battier, Mike Miller or James Jones.
Get more boardwork from Ibaka (he had only five rebounds).
Tighten up screen-roll defense. This means either giving Nick Collison more daylight than Kendrick Perkins, or playing them together. Collison, of course, must avoid getting into the kind of foul trouble that occurred in Game 3 when he was compelled to try to cut off the Heat's numerous ball-penetrations.
Keep Harden away from the coffin-corners and avoid using him in screen-roll situations to prevent Miami from doubling him. One-four iso-sets work best for him.
Play more mindfully in the clutch.
WHAT THE HEAT DID RIGHT: Relentlessly attacked the basket. This resulted in their out-scoring OKC 31-to-15 from the stripe.
LeBron was a bear on the offensive glass and was also literally unstoppable when he powered his way hoopward.
Chris Bosh didn't shoot well (3-12), but made several effective cuts and did a notable job of protecting the rim on defense.
Shot a sterling 31-for-35 from the free throw line.
Their double-teaming put Harden's offense (2-for-10) in a box.
Made big plays at both ends of the court when the game was on the line.
WHAT THE HEAT DID WRONG: Were careless with the ball in the fourth quarter.
Didn't adequately defense high screen-rolls that paired Durant and Westbrook. Fortunately for Miami, OKC seldom resorted to this tandem.
In the middle of the third quarter, suffered through one of their habitual dry spells on offense. Give OKC's defense credit for this, but also blame Miami's lack of ball-movement.
Shot a miserable 6-for-30 from mid- and long-range. Battier made a pair of treys, James and Jones made one each, and J and J also canned solitary jays. Overall, LBJ's jumpers were 2-for-8 (including an airball), while D-Wade was 0-for-5 (including an airball).
WHAT THE HEAT NEED TO DO: Anticipate that OKC will play some sort of sagging defense that will require the Heat to knock down their jumpers. Since Battier has proved to be their only reliable perimeter shooter, their anti-zone offense should be designed to get him good looks.
LBJ did a more than satisfactory job denying Durant the ball but, when KD does receive a pass, James has to either force him to a help spot or get help as soon as Durant puts the ball on the floor.
Take better care of the ball late in the game. This means avoid having Wade (five turnovers) carry the ball into the attack zone against Sefalosha's ball-hawking defense.
Get Bosh more touches in the low-post.
Despite their own shortcomings, Miami took full advantage of every OKC misstep, and did what they had to do in the endgame. These characteristics are the marks of a championship team.
On the other hand, all the post-Game 1 buzz about the Thunder coming of age has proven to be premature. In Games 1 and 2, OKC demonstrated a remarkable lack of poise out of the box, and in Game 3 they showed the same in the clutch. These characteristics are the marks of a team that are not quite ready to take the last giant step. However, pressure can either break a team or force them to grow up in a hurry.
Charley Rosen is a former pro basketball player and coach and author of 16 books on basketball.
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