2012 NBA Finals, Game 2 – Thunder Can’t Rely on Kevin Durant Saving Them Every Time

He scored 17 points in the final quarter of game 1. Good enough for a 105-94 win. He scored 16 points in Game 2. Not enough to come back from a 17 point deficit, and not enough to deny the Miami Heat from stealing home advantage and winning 100-96.

LeBron James isn’t outplaying Kevin Durant in the series. James is usually the better player in the first half, with Durant guarding him and having trouble doing that. James is easily posting him up, and all the talk about Durant’s height and length go out the window. He’s just not strong enough to keep James out of the paint. The second half adjustment, that suddenly put Sefolosha on James, work much better for Oklahoma City.

But it’s more than just stopping James. It’s about mismatches and adjustment. The Heat moved the ball much better in Game 2, showing that Erik Spoelstra knows how to change things between games (not in them usually) too. Scott Brooks, who has shown he’s good between the games but not in them as well, has to find a way and get over the small lineup the Heat use, which makes Kendrick Perkins unusable on the floor.

He also needs to stop wasting Durant on James. It’s exhausting him defensively and putting him in unnecessary foul trouble. Not all stars need to guard each other. Nick Collison can see more minutes instead of Perkins, as the Ibaka-Collison unit might handle the Miami Heat’s ”bigs” much better. It does hurt their rebounding efforts, especially on the offensive glass, but Perkins seemed to feel quite awkward every time he grabbed one, finishing with 1-5 from the field.

Chris Bosh, looking completely healthy, is giving them a lot of trouble. But the biggest surprise is Shane Battier, going for 17 two night in a row, hitting 9-13 from beyond the arc. This is the first time he’s had multiple double figure games this season, with the previous occurrence going back to February 2011, when he was still playing for the Memphis Grizzlies.

But back to Bosh and Wade. Dwyane Wade suffered the biggest dose of criticism after Game 1 and generally in these playoffs, with LeBron James convincing everyone that the fourth quarter isn’t a problem anymore. Going inside isn’t a problem anymore. He’s going to give the Heat 30+ points. He just needs the others to come through too.

So Wade finished with 24 points, shooting 10-20, his first 50% shooting night since Game 2 against the Boston Celtics. He did have a massive turnover late in the fourth quarter which cut the Heat’s lead down to 2, which makes me wonder why the Thunder don’t use more half court traps on Wade, a policy that proved rather effective by the Boston Celtics, but in general he was big, including in the end.

Chris Bosh still isn’t 100%, but who is at this point of the season? Everyone is suffering from something – fatigue or injury related. Bosh scored 16 points but was even bigger on the boards once Brooks took out Perkins, finishing with 15 rebounds. The Heat were +14 with their big three on the floor, shooting 54.3% from the field. They kept moving the ball, unlike most of the playoffs and during their bad second half in game.

They didn’t give up on controlling the paint, on scoring from close range. James (32 points, 10-22 from the field, 12-12 from the line) was 9-16 in the paint. Sefolosha did make it harder for him to find his way inside, forcing him to take a few bad shots, but in general, he found much more space to operate inside through drives or post ups. Again, the Thunder were at their best without Perkins – Nick Collison should play more than 15 minutes. He doesn’t give too much offensively, but neither does Perkins.

Russell Westbrook is hard to control. I don’t think the Heat are making that much of an effort to contain him. It’s impossible to stop either him or Durant, or both. James Harden was back to his old ways, scoring 21 points with 7-11 from the field. It was once again a higher pace in the second half, which better suited the Thunder. But this time, the Miami Heat made stops, and made a couple of big shots to keep them just enough in front.

Eventually, it came down to a good in bound pass and a rather comfortable shot by Kevin Durant. Some say he was fouled, but he really wasn’t. Not enough to get a call in this kind of situation, with 7 second left on the clock, 98-96 Heat. He rushed the shot, James had just enough pressure on him to make him feel uncomfortable. Thunder lose.

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