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Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat: NBA Finals Game 5 Preview

The Oklahoma City Thunder are not in a good spot right now. Down 3-1 in the NBA Finals, 30 teams have tried to come back from that deficit and have failed every time.

The Miami Heat have won the last three games of this series after the Thunder took Game 1. They haven’t blown OKC out in any of those games they’ve just shown more poise down the stretch.

The Thunder finally avoided a slow start in Game 4 and actually jumped out to a pretty nice lead themselves, going up 33-16 in the first quarter.

The Thunder know what they need to fix and it’s just a matter of executing it and staying alive to get back home for Game 6.

Let’s start with…

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Kevin Durant – 30.3 PPG, 2.0 APG, 4.8 RPG, .550 FG%, .370 3PT%, .821 FT%

Kevin Durant was amazing in the first two games of this series, especially in the fourth quarters. But since the series has shifted to Miami, he really hasn’t played that well at all by his standards.

Durant is still scoring 26.5 points per game in Miami and shooting efficiently but the rest of his game is suffering. His rebounding is way down and his defense in general has been suspect.

Playing with a sense of desperation in Game 5 should hopefully cure these things for Durant. It’s really just a matter of being locked in and focused and flying all over the court. Durant has been caught in no man’s land just watching too often on defense.

Perhaps it has to do with how hard he has had to work just to get the ball. Miami is mostly fronting Durant and he isn’t strong enough to make that an easy catch. This has been going on for two games now and it has really hurt the Thunder offense so it will be interesting to see if they can adjust.

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

LeBron James – 29.3 PPG, 6.0 APG, 10.0 RPG, .472 FG%, .231 3PT%, .811 FT%

LeBron had one of his best games in Game 4 against the Thunder. He dominated the game from the low block, picking apart the Thunder defense on kick outs.

LeBron’s greatest strength in recent years has been reading the situation and taking what’s given. The Thunder defense did not defend him well in the post and LeBron made them pay with 26 points and 12 assists.

LeBron then capped off the night by hitting a huge three despite battling cramps and the Heat escaped with the win.

Other than that LeBron wasn’t too dominant. His jump shot hasn’t been deadly in this series and even when he shoots in the post it is worse than it feels.

LeBron didn’t play much of a distributor in the first three games of this series but he became that in Game 4 when Miami needed him too. Letting LeBron play that role and get the role players involved is not a good idea for the Thunder.

The Thunder do not need to double him too much in the post and need to be more concerned with taking away the spot-up shooters.

Durant barely guarded LeBron in Game 4 to avoid any potential foul trouble. If Durant was able to match up with him in the post, the Thunder could play him more straight up. If Game 5 is close and Durant isn’t in foul trouble, we’ll see if Scott Brooks puts him on LeBron in the fourth.

Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via US PRESSWIRE

Russell Westbrook – 29.0 PPG, 6.8 APG, 7.0 RPG, .480 FG%, .176 3PT%, .810 FT%

Russell Westbrook is coming off the game of his life in Game 4 scoring 43 points on 20-of-32 shooting.

Westbrook was completely unstoppable as his jump shot was falling as well as his shots at the rim when he attacked at will.

The Thunder probably won’t get 43 points from him again in this series but for the first time he didn’t start the game off missing his first three shots which was a great sign.

Westbrook will now not receive any criticism for his play. He showed in Game 4 he has nights where he is better than Durant and while the Thunder didn’t win, they very easily could have.

Westbrook’s confidence has to be at an all-time high even for him now and that should lead to him becoming a playmaker and opening up even more offense for the Thunder which they desperately need.

Larry W. Smith/Pool Photo via US PRESSWIRE

Dwyane Wade – 23.3 PPG, 5.8 APG, 5.5 RPG, .413 FG%, .400 3PT%, .806 FT%

The Thunder have continued to do a good enough job on Dwyane Wade in this series. Wade did not kill the Thunder as a passer in Game 4 like he did in Game 3 but he still made some big shots.

The Thunder have to live with what Wade has been doing. The one area he has been hurting them lately is getting to the free throw line. Wade attempted 20 free throws in the last two games which is a number the Thunder can cut down.

Whenever Wade finds space, he hurts you. Westbrook has done a good job using his athleticism to guard Wade and he should see him some more in Game 5 too.

Wade is simply not the biggest concern for the Thunder right now.

James Harden – 10.8 PPG, 3.3 APG, 5.0 RPG, .351 FG%, .286 3PT%, .722 FT%

James Harden has still yet to play like himself in the Finals and that’s probably the biggest reason why the Thunder find themselves down 3-1.

If Harden is able to get it going just a little, it could be enough for the Thunder to win. His numbers are far below his normal averages all across the board.

We knew Miami would defend him the best of anyone in the playoffs but it is also in Harden’s head now why he’s not producing.

All it will take is a couple of drives to the basket where he gets fouled or finishes strong and that could get the momentum going for him.

If he doesn’t get his act together though, it’s hard to imagine the Thunder coming back in this series.

Larry W. Smith/Pool Photo via US PRESSWIRE

Chris Bosh – 12.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, .396 FG%, .250 3PT%, .833 FT%

Chris Bosh isn’t hurting the Thunder in the ways you would have expected in this series. He’s not scoring very much or doing a ton on offense to make things difficult for OKC.

Bosh is hurting the Thunder with his effort, energy and ability to get to those 50-50 balls. Who would have known?

Bosh’s ability to affect the series that way speaks more to the Thunder’s not matching Miami’s intensity in these last few games.

If you don’t notice Bosh in Game 5, the Thunder will win. If he’s a factor, this series might be over.

The Bigs

The play of the bigs for OKC was much less of an issue in Game 4 than the previous two. The Thunder avoided a slow start with their starting lineup and even got some nice production from Nick Collison when he checked in the first quarter.

The Thunder still have yet to really abuse Miami with their big men. They only got eight offensive rebounds in Game 4 and it feels like they need to be closer to 15 to really take advantage of this mismatch.

Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka combined for just eight points and 10 rebounds in Game 4. They’ve had games this postseason where they’ve both been terrific and the Thunder may need that kind of performance to extend this series.

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Spot-up shooters

Shane Battier is no long the sniper he was in Oklahoma City but in Game 4 it was Chalmers who stepped up scoring 25 points.

Miami made 10 threes in the game thanks a lot to LeBron’s work in the post drawing doubles and kicking.

The Heat got too many open looks in the game for the Thunder to be comfortable with their defense and if they are hitting them again in Game 5, things will be very difficult for the Thunder.

The Thunder went just 3-for-16 from three in Game 4. Derek Fisher didn’t attempt any threes and Thabo Sefolosha went 1-for-3.

The Thunder are going to need someone other than Durant and Westbrook to step up in Game 5 if they are going to take this series back to Oklahoma City. Hitting some more threes would be nice.

Prediction

The Thunder have their backs against the wall as much as possible now. They’ve been here before though down two games in a series and responded by winning the next four games against the best team in basketball.

The Thunder know they just need to get this series back to Oklahoma City and they will have a great chance to win it. Game 5 will be their best effort of the season, it has to be.

If the Thunder play their best, there will be nothing the Heat can do to stop them too. It’s all up to them.

They haven’t lost four games in a row all season and I don’t think they start now. This series is still going seven. If they win Game 5, they’re not losing Game 6 and then in a Game 7, anything can happen.

This team doesn’t get down on themselves and they know they can beat this team. They’ve taken the next step so many times this season and it’s no time to take another step and win Game 5 in Miami.

Topics: Chris Bosh, Derek Fisher, Dwyane Wade, James Harden, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat, NBA Finals, NBA Playoffs, Nick Collison, Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Shane Battier, Thabo Sefolosha

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  • Just sayin

    OKC – you’ve got to pull it off tonight and use the momentum to win the whole kit and kaboodle. Fake the shots a little more – make them foul you. Durant, don’t just look at the basket – look at the flopper that’s looking for a cheap turnover! It’s happened on all 4 games when you’re on a roll. Westbrook – it’s not all about you!!!