By Charley Rosen, for NBA.com
Posted Jun 21 2012 10:59AM
There are many factors that determined the outcome of Game 4, but primary among them is how each team performed in the closing minutes. Which is why the Heat are on the verge of winning the championship, while the Thunder are doomed to be also-rans.
WHAT THE THUNDER DID RIGHT: Russell Westbrook was a one-man gang, whose acrobatic layups and dead-on pull-up jumpers almost constituted a miraculous finish. Almost.
In the first quarter, OKC shot 9-for-10 from outside the paint, out-ran and out-defended Miami, and looked to be unbeatable.
Except for a few lapses when Chris Bosh was unattended, they switched high screen-rolls then quickly "unswitched" back to their original defensive assignments. This maneuver mostly diminished the effectiveness of Miami's screen-roll game.
Nick Collison had an energetic rotation in the fist half, rebounding, hustling, defending, hitting a jumper and a driving layup. But why did he only play seventeen total minutes?
Kevin Durant scored a layup on a backdoor cut against Shane Battier's deny defense. But why did he only do this once?
The Thunder showed some grit in refusing to roll over after suffering through a disastrous third quarter.
WHAT THE THUNDER DID WRONG: They were emotionally spent after their dynamic start. Their snappy ball movement, all-out hustle in transition defense, and basket-denying interior defense went flat thereafter.
After the first quarter, the Thunder shot only 15-for-35 from outside the paint.
They had no effective way to deal with LeBron James in the low post. When they did double him down there, their perimeter rotations were too slow to prevent LBJ's kick-out passes from locating open shooters.
Derek Fisher played 22 useless minutes.
James Harden played with a remarkable lack of confidence. It's clear that neither he nor Serge Ibaka are quite ready for prime time.
Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha was also no-shows.
Durant was repeatedly out-muscled on defense by both Battier and LBJ.
He had eight layups either missed or blocked.
Westbrook did hit a pair of complicated layups in the closing minutes, but here's a sequential list of OKC's failures in the same period: Under only moderate defensive pressure, Westbrook dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds. Durant was stripped on a drive into the lane. Harden missed a wide-open jumper. Sefolosha's jumper was tipped by Dwyane Wade. Westbrook committed a dumb foul. Durant shot an airball. Westbrook had a turnover.
WHAT THE THUNDER NEED TO DO: Play zone defense to discourage LBJ from posting up.
Somehow get positive contributions from Harden, Ibaka, Perkins, and Fisher.
Get more ball- and player-movement in their halfcourt sets.
Run full-blast in transition defense.
Pay more defensive attention to Mario Chalmers.
Don't give up. They can't think about the prospect of having to win three games in succession. All they must concentrate on is winning Game 5.
WHAT THE HEAT DID RIGHT: Were not discouraged by the Thunder's quick start.
LeBron's pinpoint passing punctured every weakness in OKC's defense. Plus, he continued his plus-penetrations, hit the last-minute trey that took the air out of the Thunder's comeback, and once again was a bear on the boards. In other words, in contrast to his performances in previous championship series, he played like a Hall-of-Famer.
Bosh's dive cuts led to layups and free throws -- especially when working screen-rolls in tandem with James and Wade. CB's offensive rebounding was also key.
On their very first offensive set, Bosh was the beneficiary of a pin-down screen and proceeded to bury the subsequent jumper. Why wasn't this play run more than once?
Battier played his usual staunch defense.
D-Wade did a little bit of everything -- hitting jumpers (including a pair of 3-balls), rebounding, passing, and blocking shots.
But the real hero of Miami's win was Chalmers, whose 25 points came in every possible form -- from layups to long-balls. If Miami's Big Three did what they were supposed to do, it was Chalmers who pushed the Heart over the top.
While OKC was self-destructing in the clutch, LBJ hit his game-securing trey, Wade made a driving layup, Wade tipped a jumper by Sefolosha, and Chalmers scored on still another layup.
WHAT THE HEAT DID WRONG: Were temporarily set back on their heels by OKC's dynamic start.
Couldn't keep Westbrook away from the rim.
WHAT THE HEAT NEED TO DO: Double Westbrook on the move, clog the lane, and live with Durant's erratic outside shooting.
Above all, Miami has to stay hungry and avoid being over-confident.
For Oklahoma City, The Finals are a learning experience. For Miami (and LeBron), the finals are an earning experience.
Charley Rosen is a former pro basketball player and coach and author of 16 books on basketball.
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