NBA Finals: Random Thoughts and What I Think I Think From Game 2
-- Courtesy of ESPN --
As a fan of Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder (at least in this situation), the Miami Heat’s 100-96 win last night didn’t rub me the right way. Tied at one a piece, the series now heads to South Beach for the next three games — giving the Heat an opportunity to win three straight and close the series at home. But if you’ve watched a quarter of the last eight played between these guys, you’ll understand that this thing is far from over.
In place of the typical postgame analysis, I’ve decided to go public with my arm chair criticisms from last night. From the frustrations of Russell, to the sincerity of the King, these are my random thoughts from Game 2.
- Miami Heat forward and former Duke scumbag Shane Battier cannot be left open. In this series, Battier is arguably just as much of an X-factor for the Heat as Chris Bosh. For a guy that averages less than five points a game in the regular season, Battier is averaging 17 in the Finals. How does this happen? The Thunder basically ignore him in transition and he knocks down open shots from beyond the arc. Although it doesn’t appear to be rocket science, OKC can’t appear to stop it through two games. Or they just choose not to do so.
- Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins is beyond limited offensively. Far from shocking, Perkins has never mimiced the offensive game of Kevin Garnett or Tim Duncan. He’s a defensive-minded big man that should do nothing more than dunk or pass when he touches the ball on offense. For myself, I cringe when Perkins touches the ball even two feet away from the basket. I can only imagine what true OKC fans are thinking. And I’m not hating on Perkins. However, the recipe for his success is simple. No dribbling and no shooting. Put-backs, dunks and rebounds only.
- People often say that LeBron James is the most criticized player on the Miami Heat, which is likely true when referencing fans. But in terms of the most criticized player on the Miami Heat amongst teammates and coaches, it’s hands-down point guard Mario Chalmers. At one point in the game last night, I almost felt bad for Chalmers as the team headed to the bench during a timeout and Chris Bosh made (what I believe to be) raptor-like noises in his ear. Perhaps Chalmers isn’t following coaching instructions on the court. But that wouldn’t be any different than the Heat’s offensive gameplan going into games anyway.
- As mentioned before, NBA Sixth Man of the Year James Harden is a key piece in the Thunder’s “Big Three”. Despite coming off the bench, Harden averages over 16 points per game and he can be the deciding factor in most games. Last night, the Thunder were lucky to have Harden, who came in off the bench when Kevin Durant faced foul trouble and filled up 17 points in the first half alone. The problem? After taking nine shots in the first half and single handedly keeping the Thunder in the game, Harden only took two shots in the second half (both of which were made attempts in the fourth quarter). Durant and Russell Westbrook are guys that take over the game in the fourth quarter, and understandably so. But ignoring a red-hot James Harden is far from strategic. If the beard is strokin’, feed that man the rock.
- Speaking of Russell Westbrook; is there a more frustrating superstar in the NBA right now? I enjoy Westbrook’s game just as much as the next guy, but his decision-making at times leads me to take butcher knives to my throw pillows and literally turn my living room inside out. Most of the time, Westbrook is electric — displaying incredible quickness, a smooth pull-up jumper and the unmatched ability of slicing to the basket. But other times Westbrook takes the terrible shot, commits the lazy turnover or simply doesn’t look to pass when he absolutely should. Like many athletes in sports, sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. Fortunately for the Thunder, Westbrook has a lot more good than bad.
- Erik Spoelstra still sucks. I don’t care what anyone tries to argue in favor of the Miami Heat head coach and I don’t care if Maury Levy is your acting attorney. To me, Spoelstra’s gameplan always appears to be written in a foreign language for the players and his adjustments are seemingly lost in the rafters. If the Heat end up winning the whole thing, well, good for Erik. But the Heat won’t raise a banner because of Spoelstra’s coaching antics.
- To make things clear, I don’t “hate” LeBron James. I will admit, however, that I loved him before he completely dumped the Cleveland Cavaliers and produced television specials in order to make the sting all that more worse. That said, I have no problem giving credit where credit is due and LeBron earned that last night. For the first time in recent memory, LeBron James showed up down the stretch — knocking down a crucial bank-shot and nailing two free throws when they mattered most. He’ll continue to be criticized as a closer, but there shouldn’t be but only a couple complaints (bonehead three-pointer and getting away from the post on a few occassions) about LeBron’s performance last night.
- Another note on LeBron James: this dude MUST play aggressive if he wants the respect. But more importantly, if he wants to improve his dominance in the NBA. LeBron isn’t the first player I’d take in a three-point contest, but he’s atop the list in terms of slashers and getting to the rim. LeBron displayed some of his newfound attitude last night and made it his mission to attack the paint. That’s what the priorities of LeBron’s game should read. First, attack and remain aggressive. Second, knock down the jumpers.
- Remember in the beginning of the season when people were talking about how Chris Bosh made the Heat look out of rhythm? Some even hinted towards trading Bosh for spare parts — guys used to build a team around Wade and James. For all of those people: shut up. I understand that Miami made it through a bulk of the playoffs without the dinosaur-lookalike, but his presence is absolutely necessary. Aside from being better than the big men on the Thunder squad (Ibaka is on his way), Bosh creates mismatches in the frontcourt because of his range and versatility. Time to stop hating on this guy in South Beach.
- Finally — and I know I’ll hear crap about it — Kevin Durant deserves that call at the end of the game. Although arguments are made that the stripes were just “letting the guys play”, it doesn’t ring consistent with the numerous other calls throughout the game. And, yes, this is an attack on officiating. But what made that non-call even worse was the fact that there were two other guys on the court that would have gotten that call ten out of ten times. They play for the Miami Heat. In Game 2 of the NBA Finals on your homecourt, the three-time scoring champ deserves a foul when he’s fouled in the closing minutes. That call alone could have easily made it a tie game with under a minute to play.