Posted Jun 13 2012 11:25AM - Updated Jun 13 2012 1:06PM
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Often in basketball, it's not how you start, but how you finish.
That's been the theme for the Oklahoma City Thunder throughout the playoffs and continued Tuesday as they beat the Miami Heat 105-94 in Game 1 of The Finals.
After getting outscored by seven points in the first quarter, the Thunder played the Heat even in the second, and outscored them by 18 points in the second half. After allowing 54 points in the first 24 minutes, the Thunder allowed just 40 in the last 24.
It's a pattern that OKC has followed for most of the postseason. The first quarter is their worst, the fourth quarter is their best, and their defense gets much better after halftime.
|Thunder efficiency by period, 2012 Playoffs|
|OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions|
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
In the regular season, the fourth quarter was the Thunder's worst (+2.6 points per 100 possessions) and their defense wasn't so that much better in the second half (99.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) than it was in the first half (100.7).
Ultimately, the Thunder beat the Heat at their own game. They got into the paint and to the line.
The Heat have typically been pretty good at defending the paint, allowing teams to shoot just 51 percent in the lane in the regular season and through the first three rounds of the playoffs. But Tuesday was a different story.
The Thunder shot 28-for-41 (68 percent) in the paint in Game 1. That's the second highest percentage any team has shot in the paint against the Heat all season. The only time an opponent shot better was the last game of the regular season in Washington, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did not play and the Wizards shot 28-for-39 (72 percent) in the paint.
Russell Westbrook didn't shoot well from outside the paint (2-for-12), but didn't need to, because he had 10 shots in the restricted area (and made seven of them) and nine trips to the free-throw line. Kevin Durant shot well from everywhere, 6-for-7 in the paint and 6-for-13 from the outside.
The Heat are now 0-5 (0-2 in the postseason) when they allow at least 50 points in the paint, and the Thunder are 13-1 (3-0 in the postseason) when they score at least 50.
That season finale against Washington was also the only time this season that the Heat have allowed more fast-break points (30) than they did in Game 1 (24). And what's most concerning about OKC's 24 fast-break points is that Miami had just five live-ball turnovers, two fewer than their average through the first three rounds. The Thunder were mostly running off of missed shots.
The Heat actually had the best transition defense in the regular season, allowing only 1.43 fast-break points per live-ball turnover. And they were even better through the first three rounds, allowing just 1.30. In Game 1, that number was 4.80 (24/5).
The Heat didn't shoot poorly from the paint (65 percent), but they didn't get there enough. They took 31 shots in the paint and 28 shots from mid-range, their third-lowest paint/mid-range ratio of the playoffs.
James (1-for-7), Wade (3-for-9) and Bosh (3-for-8) all shot poorly from mid-range, and Bosh didn't attempt a single shot in the paint all game.
If there's an offensive adjustment needed by the Heat in Game 2, it's to get Bosh some shots closer to the basket. In the regular season, 51 percent of his shots came from the paint, but in his four games back from injury, 26 of his 37 shots have come from the outside.
The Heat stuck with their same starting lineup from the last three games of the conference finals, going small and bringing Bosh off the bench. The Thunder, meanwhile, started with their standard big lineup. But both teams went both big (with two big men on the floor) and small (with just one big man) for significant minutes.
And both teams were better, especially offensively, when they went small.
|Game 1 efficiency, by lineup size|
The Thunder lineup of Westbrook, Derek Fisher, Thabo Sefolosha, Durant and Nick Collison was particularly potent, scoring 24 points in less than 11 minutes of action. That lineup was a plus-10 in Game 1. And amazingly, it had played just three minutes together prior to Tuesday.
All numbers courtesy of NBA.com/stats.
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