OKC Loses First Post Season Home Game As Miami Evens Series
For all the miracle endings OKC has had in these playoffs, tonight was not one of them. Down 16 points early in the first quarter, they never led in this game. Down by 13 in the fourth OKC fought back and pulled within two points in the final seconds but were unable to pull off the story book ending losing their first post season home game 100-96. However, there is a bright spot in this dark ending and that is that despite one of the best all around games we've seen from the Heat in these playoffs and a miserable first half on one of the overall worst games we've seen from the Thunder (besides maybe game 2 in San Antonio), OKC only lost by four points.
One of the keys for the Thunder in this game was the lack of fast break points. They had 24 in game one but only 11 in game two. OKC needs to use their speed to out run and wear down the legs of the Miami Heat. Another key was the rebounding, Miami out rebounded OKC 40-36. If the Thunder want to win this series they need to be able to beat Miami on the boards as they did in game one. Miami also won the battle in the paint 48-32, another battle OKC won in game one. These will be key factors to look for going in to game three. However, despite losing all these battles, OKC still were able to come within reach of winning this game. Another thing you have to be worried about if you are a Heat fan is that despite shooting a higher FG percentage, three point percentage and surprisingly free throw percentage than the Thunder, they still almost won. Of course almost doesn't count and OKC still lost this game. They need to get back to shooting the free throws the way they know how, scoring on the fast break and attacking the boards.
Both teams big three played solid games, but this time it was Miami's supporting cast that stepped up to help them get the win. Shane Battier finished with 17 points on 6-8 shooting (including 5-7 from beyond the arc) but I have my doubts that he can continue to shoot the way he has been (especially from three point territory). Lebron James finished with 32 points and Dwayne Wade stepped up finishing with 24 points on 10-20 shooting. Wade has been inconsistent in these playoffs so we will have to see if he can continue to shoot with that kind of efficiency. Chris Bosh also had a strong performance finishing with 16 points and 15 rebounds. They will need to find a way to keep him off the boards going forward. For OKC, Serge Ibaka finished with five monster blocks but only seven points. I'd like to see him contribute more offensively along with Thabo Sefalosha who finished with only three points. After an impressive performance from Nick Collison in game one, he was a non factor tonight and the Thunder will need him, along with Derek Fisher, to play better off the bench. I'd also like to see them play with better ball movement, they had 22 assists in game one but only 14 tonight. One of the few OKC players to have a better game two than game one was James Harden who finished with 21 points. Westbrook had another strong overall performance finishing with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
One of the biggest keys in tonight's game was something they don't usually struggle with and that was foul trouble for their dynamic duo. Both Durant and Westbrook got into foul trouble early and Durant got his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter. Coach Scott Brooks trusting his superstar left Durant in the game but you could see Durants hesitation on the defensive end. A strong fourth quarter performance from Kevin Durant (who finished with 32 points on 12-22 shooting) made him the first player since the ABA-NBA merger to score 16+ fourth quarter points in back to back Finals games. However, OKC's miserable first quarter performance was ultimatley their downfall. They can't afford to start off games down 18-2. I have much respect for them for continuing to fight all night long and never quitting but they better come out with a lot more fire early in game three.
As an OKC fan I refuse to let this game get me down, they are still in a better position now than they were after the first two games in the Western Conference finals against the Spurs. I believe Scott Brooks will make the necessary adjustments (just as he did against San Antonio) and OKC will find a way to get back to what they were doing right in game one. With the series tied 1-1 they will now travel down to Miami having lost home court but the Thunder have proved they can win big games on the road (they are 4-3 on the road this post-season). They will need to win at least one to regain home court advantage but I have all the confidence that they can do that. Miami may have won the battle tonight but the war has only just begun.