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NBA finals Game 2: Thunder must break the slow start habit

Jun 15, 2012, 3:48 AM EDT

Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder – Game Two Getty Images

Oklahoma City was even or ahead of Miami for 36 minutes of Game 2. Seriously. The second quarter of Game 2 was tied, the Thunder and Heat each scored 28. The Thunder won the third quarter by a point and then owned the fourth quarter 29-22.

Miami only won one quarter, the first one.

But that start — Miami raced out to an 18-2 lead, led by 17 at one point and won the quarter by a dozen 27-15 — is what decided Game 2, a 100-96 Heat win that evened the series.

For the second game in a row this series the Thunder dug themselves a hole from the start, and this this time it was too deep to climb out of. They had chances, they faced some bad calls late, but they lost this game in the first 8 minutes.

And to a man the Thunder owned up to that afterward. They know that Miami has too much talent for them to expect to come from behind every game.

They know the consequences of this trend continuing.

“That was the game. We can’t start off down 18 to 2,” Kevin Durant said.

“When you get down 17 too many things have to happen well for you and perfect for you,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.

“We got off to a slow start, we can’t keep doing that,” James Harden said in a televised interview after the game. “It only can work sometimes where we can come back.”

Why is it happening?

“Good question, I don’t know,” Harden said after the game. “We’ve done a good job all postseason of having very good starts, especially at home, and these last couple games have been slow. But we’ll pick it up in Game 3.”

If you’re looking to assign blame for the start you’ll be pointing at Russell Westbook, who was 1-7 shooting and was not facilitating for teammates. Not that they were hitting shots either — as a team the Thunder shot 25 percent in the first quarter. But the problem was team-wide, not just Westbrook. The Thunder starting five has not been consistently impressive all post season.

The ball movement and off-the-ball player movement on the weak side seemed to disappear for the Thunder in Game 2. The Thunder’s defense was a step slow to start the game and couldn’t contain Dwyane Wade, who came out aggressive and started getting into the lane. Once Wade got going there was no stopping him.

There are some small adjustments Brooks and the Thunder can make — less Kendrick Perkins (who was awful at both ends of the floor) and more Serge Ibaka. They need to play better defense to help get stops, which allows them to get out and get some transition buckets early.

It’s really about energy. More than design it’s execution. It’s about knocking down shots — Westbrook just missed shots he usually hits. Kevin Durant was 1-for-3 in the first quarter. They all need to step up.

And they need to do it from the opening tip.

  1. shockexchange - Jun 15, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    What would happen to Russell Westbrook if he played with Magic, Bird or Jordan and “was not facilitating his teammates” http://clicky.me/793y

    • ndnpaint - Jun 15, 2012 at 2:48 PM

      Shock dude….read your linked-in piece….you’re an idiot. Only gangsta mind set’s can rule? Do you honestly believe that only trash-living translates into champions?

      • shockexchange - Jun 15, 2012 at 3:58 PM

        ndnpaint

        How you derived “trash-living translates into champions” is beyond me. Maybe you should read it. Except this time, have a thesaurus handy.

  2. florida727 - Jun 15, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    Comebacks are great. The fans get into it. It adds something special to the “experience” of attending an NBA game for your favorite team. But if you’re relying on the other team’s inability to seal-the-deal, instead of your own ability to go out and take the game from the onset, you’re not going to win a 7-game series.

    I admit I’m rooting for OKC in part because I’m not a LeBron fan, but if they keep getting off to slow starts, they won’t prevail.

  3. turnmymicup - Jun 15, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    Come on Kurt, Westbrook and Durant aren’t to blame. Its the Miami defense they should be blaming. OKC hasn’t faced a defense of this caliber during the playoffs. The Heat are applying the pressure and giving them different looks. I saw Battier guarding Perkins at one point and Shane held his ground. Ill give it up to OKC they always fight back. 18 to 2 start is just too tough to make up. Now the series heads back down to Miami. Big opportunity for Miami. LETS GO HEAT!

    • bloyaglock - Jun 15, 2012 at 11:47 AM

      Kurt and the rest of the BUMS over there are SUPREME HATERS!!!!! LMAO

      I LOVE IT!! HEAT!!!!

  4. shockexchange - Jun 15, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    I actually see it as the opposite. In both games the Heat thoroughly outplayed OKC in the first half. Yet their first half leads did not reflect how badly they outplayed OKC. Miami coasted somewhat and took plays off when they should have been driving a stake through OKC’s heart. They left the door open for an OKC second half comeback, which happened twice.

  5. sugarray1 - Jun 15, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    The reffing was terrbl. Granted Westbrook and Durant have great quickness to the cup, as do James and Wade (at least for part of the game). OKC is grabbing, sliding and pushing all of the time, as good professionals should. So is Miami, but not to the same degree. Miami was not getting the calls last night. Sure maybe one or two, but for the most part Perkins, Ibaka and Westbrook were grabbing and pushing constantly. It was never called. When you see Wade or LeBron drive, watch them get derailed. THATS A FOUL! You can’t grab. Perkins moves his screens 2, 3, 4 or more times on a single encounter. YOU CANT DO THAT!

    I agree you gotta let em play, and the reffing is better now because of it, but you gotta keep the game fair and even.

  6. gmsingh - Jun 15, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    There’s only one stat you need to look at in Heat games–trips to the foul line. FTA in the box score. If the game is called fairly the other team has more, if the game is slanted in the direction of the Heat the free throws are either even or the Heat have more. And that’s exactly how the first two games played out.

    • duane888 - Jun 15, 2012 at 2:07 PM

      You have no clue what your talking about.

      • gmsingh - Jun 16, 2012 at 9:43 AM

        Thanks, that’s very helpful. Now go watch game 3 and help David Stern with the ratings.

    • ceschatz - Jun 15, 2012 at 2:43 PM

      OKC took more trips to the foul line in both games. You might want to actually watch the game or atleast do some research before posting idiotic comments

      • gmsingh - Jun 16, 2012 at 9:41 AM

        Actually, you said something idiotic. The Heat are the dirtier team, and are more likely to foul. I’m sure there is plenty of historical precedent for this too. Game 2 was 25 FTA to 26 FTA–almost even, meaning that the the foul calling was still leaning in favor of the Heat. If you want to use your brain and discuss a topic like a rational human being great, but if you’re looking for knee jerk reactions and ‘idiotic’ posts I would just suggest re-reading your own stuff.

  7. ceschatz - Jun 16, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    Hahahahahahahaha. Really? So the heat have to continuously get many less fouls for the game to be fair? Wow, you really are a delusional idiot. Obviously you dont watch the games and only catch the highlights on SC.

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