It’s been a few days now since the Oklahoma City Thunder lost Game 5 of the NBA Finals and lost the series to LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
The last few days have been about mourning, feeling sorry for this team, feeling excited about its future and feeling proud of what they accomplished.
Now we can look back at the series.
The Heat won in five games but it was a lot closer than that. Through the first four games the teams were separated by a total of five points in Miami’s favor. If five or six plays had gone OKC’s way instead of Miami’s, we could be talking about how they won the title this year instead of having to wait until next year.
LeBron James was the MVP of the Finals and deservedly so. He played at an all-time level in the playoffs and that carried straight over into the Finals. His 29-10-7 averages in the five games were one of the best ever.
LeBron adjusted to the series too with what his team needed from him, scoring more in the first few games then playing the role of distributor from the low post in the last two games. It was everything the Heat could have wanted from their MVP.
But the Thunder still could have won the series even with LeBron playing at that level. He was certainly the best player for Miami but take away a few of the X-factors in the series and the Thunder beat the Heat.
The lineups situation is probably the biggest regret for Thunder fans. Miami comes out in the series not starting Chris Bosh and going with a small lineup consisting of Shane Battier and LeBron at the forward slots.
It was unknown at first if this would benefit Miami more than hurt them but we quickly found out what would happen. The Heat started off Game 1 hitting a ton of threes led by Battier who was wide open too many times.
The Thunder did not take advantage of their size advantage and that gave Miami a crucial edge.
In a series when someone does something that works, you adjust to it. The Thunder should have done this after at least Game 2. They got out to very slow starts in each of the first three games of the series and their starting lineup was clearly not working.
The Thunder had essentially started the same five guys for a year and a half and Scott Brooks did not want to change what got the Thunder to this point. But he probably should have.
Kendrick Perkins did just about nothing in this series and after the series ended, we found out he was playing with a partially torn groin as well.
Not only should Perkins have played significantly less in this series but there was even an excuse to make that decision. If we saw the last three games with Nick Collison on the floor instead of Perkins for OKC, they might win the series.
The Beard was not feared in this series because it was basically nonexistent. James Harden averaged 12.4 points in the series, shot .375 percent from the field and .318 from three.
This was nowhere close to the Harden that was sometimes the most important player in the Thunder’s run to the Finals.
Miami was definitely going to be the best defense OKC had played so far in the playoffs and the slow start to the series was understandable for the 22-year old Harden but never finding his groove was unacceptable.
Harden was forced to defend LeBron way too much in the final three games of this series and this may have aided in Harden’s inability to get going on offense.
This Thunder team needed him though not only to score more but become their best playmaker which he was all season. The Thunder averaged just over 15 assists per game in the Finals which was much worse than their season average which was last in the NBA.
The Thunder desperately needed someone who could create offense for others and with Russell Westbrook not exactly being that guy – especially against a Heat defense that does such a good job taking away your number one options – Harden needed to step up.
Erik Spoelstra was taking a ton of Heat before this series started and even dating back to last season. He just seemed to be potentially holding this Heat team back or not being dominant enough of a personality to reign in LeBron and Wade.
Spoelstra was significantly outcoached last year in the NBA Finals by Rick Carlisle but that sure wasn’t the case this year.
Beginning with his decision to go small and use LeBron as a point power forward, it felt like Spoelstra made all the right moves while Brooks was kind of stick in neutral.
The Heat roster was not as talented as Oklahoma City’s this year but they were put in the better positions to succeed in these Finals.
Normally, Spoelstra’s lack of a consistent rotation was criticized but whenever he shook things up in this series, the new sub would come in on fire from three whether it was Norris Cole or Mike Miller.
This is what coaching in the NBA is though. You go with your gut on some decisions and when they work (guys make shots) you look like a genius. When they don’t (guys miss shots) you’re an idiot.
Spoelstra had the edge in this series over Brooks and maybe it was just a perfect matchup for Miami. They had the experience, they had LeBron capable of playing the four and not sacrificing anything, and they were more fortunate.
We will remember in this series a few things about the coaches. We’ll remember the moves Spoelstra made all seemingly working and we’ll remember Brooks not pulling the trigger on a couple of things that he probably should have.
So the Heat won and LeBron was the Finals MVP. But they didn’t win just because of him. A million things happened in these five games and if just three or four of them went the Thunder’s way instead of Miami’s, they win the championship.
Alright, that’s enough thinking about what could have been because what will become with this Thunder team can only make you smile.
Tags: Chris Bosh Dwyane Wade Erik Spoelstra James Harden Kendrick Perkins Kevin Durant LeBron James Miami Heat Mike Miller NBA Finals NBA Playoffs Nick Collison Norris Cole Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook Scott Brooks Shane Battier