NBA Finals: Heat Bench Is MIA, Hurting Their Chances Against OKC Thunder
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As a man madly in love with Kevin Durant and a fan filled with hate towards the Miami Heat, I’m the last person you’ll hear making excuses for King James and his “dream team”. But in last night’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat were clearly gassed and worn out due to their severe lack of reserve players.
Not only was it sadly apparent while watching the game, but the box score doesn’t lie when it shows that only three Miami players came off the bench last night, one of which was should-be starter Chris Bosh. Other than Bosh’s 34 minutes, Mike Miller and his fused spinal cord played ten minutes, while Joel Anthony and his irrelevance played only two. Is it any wonder that the Heat were extinguished before the game was over?
After the 105-94 loss, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra briefly mentioned that he planned on using his bench more in Game 2, which is a great idea. The only problem? Erik Spoelstra doesn’t have a bench.
Despite occassional output from rookie Norris Cole and former three-point champ James Jones, the Heat can’t afford to leave those guys in for very long. Cole would typically sub for Mario Chalmers and Jones for either Dwyane Wade or LeBron. That simply doesn’t work for Miami. They’re entirely too thin.
Spoelstra has to remember that the Thunder, although finishing 52 percent from the field, didn’t have that great of a scoring night. Sure, Durant made the basket his best friend and Russell Westbrook chipped in with a generous 27, but hardly anyone else hit double-figures (Serge Ibaka finished with ten).
While no one should expect better performances out of OKC reserve players like Nick Collison (eight points, ten rebounds) or Derek Fisher (six points, three rebounds), I think everyone is aware that James Harden is a routine contributor to the Thunder’s scoring threat, and that his five-point outing in Game 1 was from normal. It was almost as unusual as Shane Battier’s 17 points — including 4-for-6 from three-point – when he only averages about five points per game.
It’s hard to imagine that an NBA Finals drenched with so many superstars could ultimately come down to bench performances, but it’s very possible in this series. For each team — whether it be the need for more buckets or the need for more oxygen — the reserve guys are going to play a key role in the outcome.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are seemingly comfortable with their bench, knowing that a hand full of guys generate hustle and spark, while the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year James Harden is usually good for at least 12 points every game. But for the Heat, having to rely on Joel Anthony, Ronnie Turiaf and Mike Miller shouldn’t leave you confident about winning a championship.