A Closer Look: 'Little Things' Make Big Difference in Game 1


On a night that featured big-time performances on the game’s biggest stage, it was the “little things” that helped the Thunder defeat the Miami Heat, 105-94, in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Yes, Kevin Durant’s game-high 36 points and his 17 fourth-quarter points played a big role, as did Russell Westbrook’s 27-point, 11-assist, eight-rebound night.

But also important in the rally that saw the Thunder charge back from a 13-point first-half deficit was the catch-and-turn pass deep in the paint from Serge Ibaka to Durant for an open jumper; the drive-and-dish from Durant to a wide open Thabo Sefolosha for a layin; Derek Fisher rising for a 3-point shot by instead spotting Sefolosha slicing through the lane and to the basket.

The list goes on, and includes every Thunder player who logged minutes.

“We talked about a few things on offense, good screens, good ball movement, good spacing, forceful cuts, but we really talked about doing the little things,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “Those are the little things we that we have to do, and it’s little things that are not for the guys that are the role players. Little things are for all of our players.

“Kevin has to be a little-thing type of player, setting the screen, getting a rebound, diving on the floor. We dove on the floor and got a couple of jump balls, which was good. … The little things tonight helped us win this game.”

The boxscore underscored Brooks’ points. The Thunder had more rebounds (43-35), assists (22-20), blocks (3-1) and matched the Heat with 10 turnovers, but only two in the second half; Miami had six.

The other telling stats: the Thunder dominated in points in the paint (56-40) and fast-break points (24-4) and also had more second-chance points (13-8).

“They pounded us in the big muscle areas, the rebounding, second-chance points, points in the paint, loose balls; they were quicker to every single one of those,” Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said.

The Thunder trailed until the 6:44 mark of the third quarter, when Durant drove hard through the lane, drawing three Heat defenders to him just past the foul line. As he elevated, he spotted Sefolosha for one of his four assists, tying the game at 60-60.

The Thunder would take its first lead, 74-73, with 16.4 seconds remaining on a three-point play by Westbrook and would expand it through a series of “little things:”

  • 78-73: Fisher rises for a 3-point shot, but spots an unguarded Sefolosha darting toward the basket and feeds him for a reverse layup.
  • 82-77: Collison steals the ball deep in the defensive zone and hits Sefolosha with the outlet pass. Sefolosha spots Durant running down the sideline and the fast-break is completed with a thunderous dunk.
  • 87-81: Durant drains a 3-pointer on a possession extended by a offensive rebound tap-out by Collison.
  • 99-92: In a text-book “sharing the ball” possession, Westbrook passes to Durant who drives hard to the basket and drops a bounce pass to Collison for an uncontested dunk.
  • 103-92: In a similar series, Collison again slams home two following passes from James Harden to Westbrook.

“We’re just trying to take it a possession at a time,” Durant said. “You know, this is a tough series. This level of basketball is the hardest we play, and we just want to take it slow, and take it, like I said, a possession at a time. … Next game we’ve got to start a little better because this team is going to come out extremely hard.”

Added Spoelstra: “We felt that we had an opportunity going into the fourth quarter, and about halfway through the fourth quarter we were thinking we were putting ourselves in a position to win, and then they just went away. That’s what they do. They keep on coming. They’re relentless.”