The Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat will tip-off Game 1 of the NBA Finals tonight at 9 p.m. EST on ABC.
The series promises to be a close one. The Thunder are the deeper, more talented team but the Heat have more experience and they have LeBron James.
Regular season meetings
The Thunder and Heat met twice in the regular season with each team winning once.
The Thunder won 103-87 on March 25 at home. Kevin Durant outplayed LeBron and had a stat line of 28-8-9 while LeBron went just 17-7-3. The Thunder shot nearly 53 percent from the field, had 26 assists and forced Miami to turn the ball over 21 times.
Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins both played great with Ibaka having 19 and 10 and Perkins 16 and six.
James Harden was also a force efficiently going 6-for-7 from the field for 19 points and six assists.
In the second meeting, Miami won at home 98-93. LeBron got the better of Durant this time with a 34-10-7 stat line while Durant was 30-3-4 and had nine turnovers. Miami shot just 37.3 percent from the field in the game but went 26-for-29 at the line, made 10 threes and committed just 13 turnovers to OKC’s 18.
Ibaka and Perkins combined for just six points in the game and Harden was quiet with 12.
Russell Westbrook went 9-for-26 from the field in the game and had 28 points.
Oklahoma City 11.63% of offense, 0.97 PPP
Durant 1.16, Westbrook 0.84, Harden 1.14
The Thunder are the best isolation team in the NBA because of these three players. The Heat are the best defense the Thunder have seen so far in the playoffs so scoring in this way will get harder.
Westbrook has the biggest advantage as Mario Chalmers will be matched up with him a lot and he needs to take advantage. Durant will have LeBron on him a lot so over-isolating isn’t a good idea. Harden is the wild card here as Battier played him well in the regular season but if he can break out in this series it will be huge for OKC.
Miami 13.17% of offense, 0.78 PPP
LeBron 0.88, Wade 0.71
LeBron and Wade aren’t going to have an easy time isolating against the Thunder because the Thunder will play them straight up. If the ball stops moving for the Heat, they will play right into the Thunder’s hands.
Isolations are inevitable though and if LeBron and Wade are pulling up for jumpers, that will be just what Oklahoma City wants. If they are driving and getting to the line it will be better for the Heat.
Oklahoma City 27.91% of offense, 0.87 PPP
Durant 0.97, Westbrook 0.91, Harden 0.77, Ibaka 0.96
The Thunder’s bread and butter is their pick-and-roll game. It is really important for Westbrook to be doing well in this area, scoring himself and also getting others involved, especially Ibaka for his midrange jump shot.
It will be very hard against Miami’s defense for Durant to be efficient in the pick-and-roll. He needs to make sure he limits his turnovers and makes good passes.
Harden is the beast in the pick-and-roll and once he finds out how to attack in it, it’s over for the defense. It took him awhile in the San Antonio series to figure it out and the Thunder will need him to be effective quickly in this series given the 2-3-2 format.
Miami 20.89% of offense, 0.94 PPP
LeBron 1.04, Wade 0.85, Bosh 1.28, Chalmers 0.79
The Heat also run a lot of pick-and-rolls and now with Bosh back, they should get better at it. Bosh helps spread the floor for LeBron and Wade to attack in the pick-and-roll and when he is hitting his jumper makes it really hard on the defense.
The Thunder need to defend the pick-and-roll to do everything to keep LeBron and Wade out of the lane and live with jump shot results.
Oklahoma City 15.75% of offense, 1.09 PPP
Durant 1.18, Westbrook 1.08, Harden 1.60, Sefolosha 0.95, Fisher 1.09, Ibaka 1.03
The Thunder don’t get as many spot-up looks as you would think but the opportunities are there, Durant and Westbrook just need to do a better job of finding the open men.
The Thunder have really improved their ball movement in the playoffs resulting in more assists and more open shots. Durant is the best on the catch and shoot but Harden has been on fire in the playoffs.
The more spot-up shots the Thunder can get, the better.
Miami 21.78% of offense, 0.95 PPP
LeBron 0.69, Wade 1.06, Bosh 1.07, Miller 1.02, Battier 1.00, Chalmers 1.05
The Heat can hurt you with spot-up shooters and that’s where their role players really come into play. Shane Battier and Mike Miller will play big roles in this series not only on defense but whether or not they can make open 3-pointers.
LeBron is the best at finding open shooters so if OKC falls asleep on defense, he will make them pay. LeBron isn’t a very good spot-up shooter himself though so when the ball is swung to him, the Thunder defense shouldn’t rush out on him too hard and rather invite the spot-up jumper instead of giving him a chance to drive.
Oklahoma City 4.77% of offense, 0.70 PPP
The Thunder barely ever post-up unless you count when Durant does it at the top of the key. Durant can sometimes have an advantage doing so because he is so tall but that won’t be the case with LeBron guarding him.
Durant may be able to find times to do this when LeBron is off him but the fact remains that the Thunder simply don’t post-up much.
Miami 8.11%, 0.92 PPP
LeBron 0.94, Wade 0.90, Bosh 0.88
All you heard at the beginning of this season was how LeBron and Wade were posting up more. It was true and they improved at it but not too drastically.
It could play a huge role in this series though especially with Wade. Wade will have an advantage over Harden or Westbrook in the post and even Sefolosha. This could be a way that Wade gets his offense going.
LeBron probably won’t post-up as much with Durant on him, who plays him well down low. This is a great thing for the Thunder but they will need to be ready for LeBron to look to distribute out of the post and not fall asleep on defense.
The offenses have been better than the defenses for both teams. The team that plays the best defense should win this series though. And the team that turns the ball over the least and scores on the break will be in a good position to win as well.
The Thunder will probably come out of the gates in Game 1 really excited and may not be executing their best. The Heat will need to take advantage of this and get out to a lead and to try and steal this first game and steal home court.
Topics: Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, James Harden, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat, NBA Finals, NBA Playoffs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Shane Battier, Thabo Sefolosha