The Miami Heat’s Defense is the key to this series, and whether the Oklahoma City Thunder can crack it.
Heading into the NBA Finals, the OKC Thunder recorded a 110.1 offensive efficiency rating, which was approaching some of the best post-season offenses in playoff history; they were young, fearless, and had the strength to topple 3 former NBA champions through the Western Conference Playoffs, then they hit a 6’9″ brick wall who loves to grind out games.
“That’s our mindset, period,” James said after winning Game 3, 91-85. “That’s just how we play. We always feel like we want to grind out games.”
Despite the Defensive Player of the Year-level defense James has been playing at this post-season, the Thunder only trail the Heat by an aggregate of 1 point after 3 games.
The length and athleticism of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade, combined the blond-fold technique of Shane Battier(really interesting article on ESPN about that) has given them an all too familiar 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
We all remember what happened last year with a 2-1 lead, but this is a different Miami Heat team and the Thunder will need their A-game to even up this series.
The Heat claimed that their defense was what allowed the Thunder to completely outscore them in transition in Game 1; they then have proved with ever increasing defensive intensity they can even the transition baskets, and the final scores illustrate that.
Following Game 1, when they scored 105 points in what James called “a feel-out game,” the Thunder dropped to 96 points in Game 2 and 85 in Game 3.
I don’t think anyone would claim that the Heat will hold the Thunder under 85 in game 4, but it is a telling statistic and could determine the outcome of this series. If the Thunder play solid defense, and get production from their stars and role players(they have a much better bench than the Heat), then the Thunder can absolutely win this series.
If they don’t figure out the Miami Heat defense, then they might not even be booking their flights back to Oklahoma City and they can just go straight on to their summer vacation.