Jun 21, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts in front of Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) during the second quarter of game five in the 2012 NBA Finals at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Oklahoma City Thunder 2012-13 Preview: Miami Heat


Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies.

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Miami Heat Team Overview

LeBron James and the Miami Heat won the NBA title last season. They didn’t have the best regular season, they battled some injury problems all the way up until the NBA Finals and then it all came together in five games vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder.

LeBron had quite the year winning his first ring, third MVP and second gold medal. LeBron didn’t come to Miami to win just one title and the Heat went out this offseason looking to retool to be prepared to defend their title next season.

The biggest acquisition for Miami was Ray Allen from the Boston Celtics. The Heat’s goal is to surround their Big 3 with a bunch of 3-point shooters and Allen is one of the best ever. Allen’s regular season impact may not equate to much more than a few wins here and there but in the playoffs and in clutch situations he will be most valuable.

The Heat also signed free agent Rashard Lewis who hasn’t played good basketball in a few years but a change of scenery in Miami with LeBron and Wade may resurrect his game.

The Heat were looking to add to the pot in putting together a roster of versatile players where traditional positions become less relevant. They seem committed to the small-ball style that won them a title last year. There is talk that Chris Bosh is embracing the center position and LeBron the power forward role.

The Heat didn’t stand pat after winning a title which was a good thing for them. You always have to get better even after winning a championship and Miami thinks they have done just that.

Last year

The Heat and Thunder of course met in the NBA Finals last year and the Heat won in five games. In the regular season, they played twice and each team defended their home court.

The Thunder won the first game easily 103-87. Kevin Durant outplayed LeBron scoring 28 points to go with eight assists and nine rebounds. Russell Westbrook had just 13 on 4-of-16 shooting. James Harden had 19 on 6-of-7 shooting as he was playing the best basketball of the season at this time.

Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins dominated the paint combining for 35 points and 16 rebounds.

LeBron had 17 in the game as Wade led the way with 22. The Heat started Joel Anthony at center in the game and he played 16 minutes. Ronny Turiaf played 11 minutes off the bench and Udonis Haslem 32 minutes.

The Heat won the next game in Miami 98-93. LeBron had a much better game with 34 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Wade had 19 and Bosh just 12.

Durant had 30 and Westbrook had 28 in the game but Ibaka and Perkins combined for just six points.

The Heat played more small ball in that game with Anthony and Turiaf playing a combined 23 minutes.

In the Finals, the Thunder took Game 1 105-94 as Durant outplayed LeBron for probably the only time in the series. He had 36 points and 17 came in the fourth quarter. LeBron was still good with 30 points but the Heat just looked flat in the game.

The Heat went on to win the next four games as the Thunder could not figure out their smaller lineups. Every minute Perkins played seemed like a disaster for the Thunder and he was playing hurt no less. Durant picked up a lot of stupid fouls that would keep him sidelined more than usual and everything came together for the Heat down the stretch.

Durant averaged 30.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in the Finals while shooting .548 percent from the field and .394 percent from three. He only attempted 6.2free throws per game and the Thunder shot a much lower percentage from the line in the series too which didn’t do them any favors.

Westbrook averaged 27.0 points, 6.6 assists and 6.4 rebounds per game. He shot .433 percent from the field and .136 percent from three despite attempting 4.4 threes per game. He did provide us with one of the most memorable Finals performances scoring 43 points in Game 4 despite the Thunder losing the game.

Harden was miserable in the Finals averaging 12.4 points per game and shooting .375 percent from the field and .318 percent from three. He only attempted 4.8 free throws per game too as the Heat defense was by far the toughest the Thunder and Harden faced all playoffs and it really showed as Harden never found his rhythm.

LeBron captured the Finals MVP averaging 28.6 points, 7.4 assists and 10.2 rebounds per game. He shot .472 percent from the field and .826 percent from the line while attempting 9.2 free throws per game.

Wade averaged 22.6 points and 5.2 assists per game. He only shot .435 percent from the field but attempted 8.0 free throws per game.

Bosh averaged 14.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. He shot just .452 percent from the field.

Shane Battier was the savior for the Heat averaging 11.6 points per game in the series. He shot .577 percent from three and made 3.0 threes per game in the series.

The matchup

The Thunder and Heat are pretty evenly matched overall. In the regular season, the Heat offense had no real advantage vs. the Thunder defense.

The Thunder offense had its biggest advantage vs. the Heat with its spot-up shooting. The Thunder were the 6th best in the NBA at spot-up shooting plays in terms of points per possession while the Heat were just 21st best vs. those plays.

The Heat were the best in the NBA defending isolation plays and the 3rd best vs. the pick-and-roll.

The Thunder defense became a lot worse in the playoffs and especially the last two rounds when they played the Spurs and Heat. The Heat had a slight advantage in almost every area vs. the Thunder defense, especially in transition and pick-and-roll plays where the Heat were the best in the playoffs at both.

The Heat defense did suffer some with the injury to Bosh and playing more small lineups. The Thunder had a slight advantage in isolation and pick-and-roll plays but it was not enough.

The biggest misconception in the NBA Finals is that the Heat won by getting into the post. The Heat were the least efficient team in the playoffs scoring from the post against the Thunder. They killed the Thunder passing out of the post for open 3-point shooters. This happened because Durant got in foul trouble and the Thunder had to put smaller players on LeBron and thought they had to double him.

If the Thunder would have decided to still play one-on-one vs. LeBron in the post, they would have had a better chance to win the series. Instead, LeBron was able to get every one of his teammates involved (which he loves doing) and that made the Heat much tougher for the Thunder to beat.

The Thunder were able to scored most efficiently vs. the Heat in the pick-and-roll in the Finals. The Heat pick-and-roll defense in the Finals was the worst of any team in the playoffs while the Thunder pick-and-roll offense was the best.

Again, scoring was not the problem for the Thunder in the Finals, it was their defense that killed them.

Next year

The Heat made some changes this offseason but their style of play will resemble most closely what we saw from them in the NBA Finals. This should make for them to be a better regular season team.

The Thunder will play the Heat twice in the regular season next year first on Christmas Day in Miami and then on Feb. 14 in Oklahoma City.

The Heat finished as the 2-seed in the East each of the last two years but this coming season they should be in position to get the top seed in their conference. The East is so weak too and with the Bulls and Rose’s future uncertain, the Heat are the easy favorites to make it back to the NBA Finals again.

The Thunder hope to do so too but it just got harder for them with the Lakers acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash this summer.

If we do see a rematch in the NBA Finals, remember that everything went just right for the Heat last year in the Finals while the Thunder did not play to the level they had been all playoffs. The Thunder were very young and looked like the less-experienced team in that series.

The Thunder should be more prepared should they meet the Heat again the Finals next year and that could mean a new champion in the NBA.

Tags: Miami Heat Oklahoma City Thunder