OKC's Other Big 3
Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images
Much has been made about which NBA Finals team has the better Big 3.
MIami's hyped LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? Or Oklahoma City's hyper Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden?
Who woulda guessed that an unheralded trio would come in and steal the show in Game 1, thieving the contest in such a way that people today still don't realize a heist was committed.
Yes, this Ocean's Eleven caper was not pulled off by stars like George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. Rather, the NBA Finals Game 1 heist was pulled off by Nick Collison, Thabo Sefolosha and Derek Fisher.
Or for short, let's just call them OKC's Big 3D--with the D standing for defense.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will rightfully get credit for the victory--they were unstoppable on offense, with Durant racking 36 points on 20 shots, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, while quarterback Westbrook had 27 points on 24 shots, 11 assists, with only 2 turnovers.
But the real story Tuesday night was how Oklahoma City shut down Miami's high-powered offense, allowing only 14 Heat points in a key 10-and-a-half-minute stretch where Collison, Sefolosha and Fisher were paired with the Thunder's All-NBA dynamic duo.
And this is where OKC's new 3D lineup was birthed.
This quintet had never played together during the playoffs. Shoot, this Fisher-Westbrook-Sefolosha-Durant-Collison combo had only logged three minutes together during the 2011-12 regular season.
Yet with 1:16 remaining in the third quarter, Harden picked up his fourth foul with the Thunder down, 73-69, when Sefolosha replaced him in the smallball lineup, putting the dynamic duo and the OKC Big 3D together on the floor for a rare appearance.
Sefolosha took James, Collison guarded Bosh and Fisher matched up with Mario Chalmers.
Not only did they stop Miami's offensive flow--the Heat had scored 73 points in the game's first 35 minutes--this Thunder quintet went on a 24-14 run that gave OKC a six-point lead when Sixth Man of the Year Harden was ultimately brought back at the 2:44 mark.
These role players had done their job so well--Miami was 5-for-16 during this stretch--All-Defense power forward Serge Ibaka didn't even have to play in the fourth quarter.
It was truly a special night for role players on a roll--lest we forget how this game started in the first place, with the Heat's non-Big-3 members Shane Battier and Chalmers playing the 2012 NBA Finals like it was the NCAA Championships again.
Remember when Battier won the Most Outstanding Player award leading Duke to the 2001 NCAA Championship? Or Chalmers took the MOP and carried Kansas to the 2008 NCAA Championship?
Well, the first half of 2012 NBA Finals Game 1 was like that again, with the two long bombers draining shot after shot--Battier and Chalmers scored 13 and 10 first-half points, respectively--while the Thunder defense just ignored their long shots in favor of locking down the paint. The Thunder trailed the Heat by 7 at halftime.
Battier and Chalmers would finish the game with 17 points on 9 shots and 12 points on 7 shots to complement their own dynamic duo--James supplied his standard superstar play (30 points on 24 shots, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals in the game), while Wade himself was inefficiently productive (19 points on 19 shots, 8 assists, 4 rebounds).
All in all, it was a solid effort from Miami.
But from the start, the stage was set for role players to steal this show.
[Cue the Thunder]
And in the second half, like I said, it was OKC's 3D combo that pulled off this heist with defense, defense, defense.
Yes, Durant was otherworldly special on offense, pouring in a memorable 17 fourth-quarter points to lock this game up.
But on D, Durant was able to conserve energy during the stretch run, guarding spot-up shooter Battier, while the three physical veterans stayed on the Heat like sweat on skin.
It really should be no surprise that Collison, Sefolosha and Fisher could lock a team down like this.
When you look at their advanced stats, you begin to see the things that don't show up in the box score.
Nick Collison's +5.3 Regularized Adjusted Plus Minus was the seventh-best score in the NBA.
Thabo Sefolosha's +3.3 defensive RAPM was third only to Andre Iguodala and Tony Allen, among NBA wings.
Five-time NBA champ Derek Fisher has won more games in the NBA than any other active player.
That's what these guys do. They're winners.
Make the plays that lead to the plays that win games.
Collison's screens setting up Durant. Sefolosha's body-up defense on James. Fisher cheating off Chalmers to help out teammates on D.
From the sweet Fisher-to-Sefolosha perimeter-to-paint pass--set up by a Collison screen--with 10:12 to go ... To the delicious draw-and-dish-and-dunk from Durant to Collison to seal the game, putting OKC up by 7 with 1:16 left.
Big play after big play after big play from the big role players.
Unfamiliar playing together. Yet so familiar in knowing their role and getting this NBA Finals win as a newfound group.
It's just something that had to be done in these fluid Finals where both teams have relegated their big men to the bench, with Miami playing 31 minutes of smallball Tuesday, while OKC played 23 minutes of smallball.
Going in, Miami knew what the Thunder's Big 3 was about--totally unstoppable on offense.
Now, they learned what this OKC Big 3D trio looks like up close.
And do you want to know what makes these role players so special?
They can steal other heroes' superpowers.
That, in itself, is big.