The fishing season doesnít begin until June 26 if you are the Miami Heat or the Oklahoma City Thunder. That provided the Heat arenít done with their opponents any earlier in the 2012 NBA Finals. However, the way the OKC reserves have played the first three games of this series, chances are the Thunder will have the offseason thrust upon them a lot sooner than you think.
Make no mistake about it, this is not about what Miamiís reserves have or have not been doing. The Heat never had too deep a roster. Also, the moment Chris Bosh stopped coming off the bench for the Heat after Game 1, we knew Miami would count on its trio of superstars Ė LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh - to deliver. Accordingly, when the Heatís reserves contributed 12, 8 and 16 points in Games 1, 2 and 3 respectively, it was an added bonus to whatever Miamiís starting five put up on the scoring glass.
OKC, on the other hand, have a distinct advantage in terms of their bench strength. Consequently, any time James Harden, Nick Collison, Derek Fisher and Daequan Cook come up short, it hurts the Thunder. Between them, Harden, Collison, Fisher and Cook have gone a combined 23-for-54 from the field in this series, which translates to an ordinary 42.6 percent. Nobody mirrors the OKC reservesí struggles more than Harden, the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year. Harden has had a rollercoaster series, scoring 5, 21 and 9 points in three games. Had Harden alone done better than his Ď2-for-10í shooting in Game 3, the series score could well have been reading 2-1 in favour of the Thunder.
Equally, Collison and Fisher have done the disappearing act. Collison, who posted an impressive 8 points and 10 rebounds in OKCís Game 1 win over the Thunder, has since registered only 2 points and 5 rebounds in the next two games. Fisher, similarly, who was 3-for-5 in Game 1, has gone 1-for-5 and 3-for-8 in Games 2 and 3 respectively.
One doesnít have to look too far behind to gauge how much of an impact OKCís reserves make. In the first three rounds of the 2012 postseason, against Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs, Cole Aldrich, Collison, Cook, Fisher, Harden, Lazar Hayward, Royal Ovey and Nazr Mohammed combined for 132, 153 and 194 points coming off the bench. That is an average of 33 points in the Mavericks series, 30.6 in the Lakers series and 32.33 points in the San Antonio series. Contrastingly, Harden, Fisher, Cook and Collison have contributed only 62 points, at an average of 20.6 per game, in the NBA finals.
Sure, OKC has other problems. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Harden are engaging in too much one-on-one dribbling. Durant, Westbrook and Harden are also not getting to the free-throw line as much as LeBron and Wade are going. A slow start in Game 2 and missed free-throws in Game 3 have also hurt them. Yet, until their reserves, led by Harden, donít stand up to be counted, the Thunder will find it difficult to keep up with the Heat in this series.
Also, the fishing experience is a whole lot better when you go on your own terms.
All stats are up to games played on June 19, 2012 (IST)