Posted Jun 15 2012 1:47PM
OKLAHOMA CITY -- In each of the first two games of the 2012 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat have won just one quarter: the first. In Game 1, that wasn't enough. In Game 2, it was.
The Heat led 18-2 after eight-plus minutes on Thursday and led by as many as 17 points in the first quarter. It was a hole the Oklahoma City Thunder were never able to completely climb out of. They made another second-half comeback and had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final seconds, but came up short.
And while some may want to focus on a non-call on Kevin Durant's attempt to tie with 10 seconds left, the Thunder need to worry more about the ugly starts.
"I love the way that we came back and fought but it's tough to make up 17 points," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said afterward. "When you get down 17, too many things have to happen well for you."
If Brooks wants to figure out what's wrong with his team in the first quarter, he has to look no further than his starting lineup, which has been outscored 63-45 in 28 minutes through the first two games.
You would think that, with Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins starting, the lineup's problems would be restricted to the offensive end of the floor. But it has been just as awful defensively as it has been offensively.
|Thunder lineups, 2012 Finals|
|Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes|
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
The Thunder shot just 1-for-12 with their starters on the floor in the first quarter of Game 2. And then the OKC starters allowed the Heat to shoot 6-for-9 at the start of the third quarter. Bad offense, bad defense. The Thunder starters have it all.
The problems start with Perkins, who is a minus-18 for the series, but they don't end there. Serge Ibaka is also a minus-18. The issue also isn't necessarily playing two big men instead of one, because they've been OK when Nick Collison has been one of the two bigs.
Of course, they've been really OK when Collison is the only big...
|Thunder big men on the floor, 2012 Finals|
But Collison played less than 15 minutes in Game 2. Though he didn't score, the Thunder were a plus-8 with him on the floor, and his plus-21 through two games is highest among all players in the series.
So there's obviously a call for Thunder coach Scott Brooks to change his starting lineup, as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has done six times already in this postseason. But considering Brooks' history, a lineup change would be a big surprise.
As long as they've been healthy, the Thunder have had the same starting lineup since they traded for Perkins in February of 2011. It's a lineup that's always been pretty poor offensively, scoring less than a point per possession in 1,396 minutes together over the last two seasons.
Before they acquired Perkins, the Thunder had the same starting lineup for two years. That lineup -- Westbrook, Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic -- played 2,215 minutes together over those two years and was outscored by 92 points in those minutes.
So Brooks has a clear history of valuing continuity over lineup data, and a lineup change for OKC would be unprecedented.
In Game 6 of the conference finals in Boston, LeBron James shot 10-for-16 from outside the paint, part of a brilliant 45-point performance that saved the Heat's season. In the three games since then, he has shot just 4-for-26 from outside the paint.
The good news for the Heat is that James took just six shots from outside the paint in Game 2. He worked out of the low post most of the first half and attacked the basket on pick and rolls and isolations in the second half. And when his team really needed it, he got his first basket from outside the paint with 1:26 left in the fourth quarter, a sweet pull-up bank shot over Sefolosha.
Chris Bosh's forays into the paint were maybe as important as James'. After attempting all 11 of his shots from outside the paint in Game 1, Bosh took 10 of his 13 shots from the paint in Game 2, making 5-of-10.
And just as important as what Bosh and James did is what happened on the other end of the floor, where the Thunder shot just 16-for-36 in the paint after shooting 28-for-41 in the paint in Game 1.
Russell Westbrook was 6-for-15 in the paint and Perkins was 1-for-5. The Heat won the paint battle 48-32 in Game 2 after losing it 56-40 in Game 1.
Shane Battier is on fire, shooting 9-for-13 (69 percent) from 3-point range in The Finals. And what's most interesting about Battier's 3-pointers is that only two of the 13 attempts have come from the corners.
In the first three rounds of the playoffs, 50 of Battier's 84 3-point attempts came from the corners. And typically, the corner 3 is a better shot than one from above the break. But Battier shot only 30 percent on corner 3s in the first three rounds, while shooting 35 percent on 3-pointers above the break.
In this series, Battier is 1-for-2 from the corners and a ridiculous 8-for-11 from above the break.
All numbers courtesy of NBA.com/stats.
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