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NBA Finals Heat-Thunder Game 2: Welcome back, Thunder defense

Jun 15, 2012, 12:14 PM EDT

Miami Heat's James goes to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder's Durant during Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals in Oklahoma City Reuters

I had serious questions about the Thunder defense heading into Game 1. After all, this was a top ten, but not top five defense throughout the year, and it still gave up a ton of points to San Antonio (which granted has the best offense in the league). I had major concerns about how they would react to a tougher, more physical team. In Game 1, they responded beautifully. The rotations were great, their man-attack was spectacular, they did everything right. It was a major response.

“Maybe I was wrong,” I said to a friend. “Maybe they’re just better defensively than I thought they were.”

/clown nose honks


Welcome back, Thunder defense.

A 111 defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) for OKC, and that was the difference in the game. You can talk the no-call on an obvious fouls, or the goaltending call, or Shane Battier‘s “what in the hell” three. But the reality is that the Heat allowed a Miami offense that everyone left for dead after Game 1 to put up a 111 defensive efficiency. That killed them. That’s the game.

And some of it wasn’t their fault. Thabo Sefolosha‘s work has been brilliant. He’s contesting jumpers, and running under layups to disrupt without drawing fouls. James Harden has played better than usual, and Russell Westbrook, surprisingly, has been quite good. He’s been active in passing lanes and creating steals.

But the rest? It was not good. When the Heat offense didn’t fall to pieces as it did in Game 1, it created enough to get the win. Surprisingly, the biggest culprit Thursday night was Kevin Durant, who has been magnificent this year defensively. From the first tip, Durant was just a second off with his timing, just a bit slow on his rotations. And versus Game 1, when he bodied and held his ground against LeBron James in the post, James worked him over in all sorts of nasty ways in Game 2. He was overmatched. That foul trouble he got into? Four of his five fouls were absolutely legitimate. He gave up an and-one to Chris Bosh on a fast break, for crying out loud. It’s a sign of Durant’s development that he’s reached a level where his defense is expected to be better. But it is. And it wasn’t.

But Durant wasn’t the only one. Oh, the Ibaka blocks! What wonders of wonders! Too bad Ibaka also got torched by Chris Bosh and LeBron James because of his tendency to overreact to pumpfakes, and that several times late the Heat found Chris Bosh for dunks because he was too eager in his rotations. Sick blocks, tho, bro. (It should be noted Ibaka genuinely was fantastic in the first half defensively, a big reason the Thunder hung.)

Even Nick Collison, wondrous Nick Collison, was a problem. Chris Bosh abused him by being quicker and more aggressive, and drawing fouls. The Thunder as a defense was just not in a position it needed to be in on Thursday.

Everyone said that it wasn’t a problem after Game 1, that the Thunder could just outscore them. This is a very good Heat defense. That’s a flawed approach. If the Thunder want to regain homecourt and get the lead back in this series, they have to get back to playing defense as they did in the second half of Game 1. Quit worrying about Westbrook’s shots, or fouls, or goaltends. You’ve got to stop the Heat if you’re going to win the title.

  1. simonwelds - Jun 15, 2012 at 2:51 PM

    How about the big three of the heat hitting all but 3 free throws, mike miller finally taken out of the rotation, and bosh going 16/15 , with excellent shooting by batter that’s the real reason they won

  2. labratre - Jun 15, 2012 at 4:13 PM

    Where is all of those heat haters at?

  3. jollyjoker2 - Jun 15, 2012 at 8:52 PM

    If the ref’s call fouls against durant like last game, put a fork in the thunder. No team can get up on miami with that kind of lame calls. I like the thunder as they are better, but maybe just a little too young to deal with this type of horrible rf’s.

    • finalword33 - Jun 16, 2012 at 8:32 AM

      Yeah, the refs let Miami get up 18-2 in the first.

      • finalword33 - Jun 16, 2012 at 8:33 AM

        And, the refs fouled out Durant correctly. Oh, right, they didn’t do that either.

  4. ceschatz - Jun 15, 2012 at 10:51 PM

    Goodie, another “lets blame the refs” media sheep. Get a life idiot.

  5. truthhurtstoo - Jun 16, 2012 at 7:21 AM

    OKC is in over their heads. They need a little more time and the HEAT should finish them in 7.

  6. ndnpaint - Jun 16, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    Truthhurtstoo… Almost everyone thought the Spurs were going to easily finish the Thunder off b/c they were so much better. OKC beat the Mavericks, Lakers and Spurs to get where they are….this is a game of adjustments. This thing may not be over just yet.

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