Skip to content

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

/kazoo

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle fined $25K for publicly criticizing officials after Game 3 loss to Rockets

    Apr 25, 2015, 2:29 PM EDT

    Sean Corbin, Rick Carlisle Sean Corbin, Rick Carlisle

    “The officials [have] got to get that stuff under control, because there’s too much physical stuff going on. Howard is throwing people all over the place,” Carlisle said.

  2. Kawhi Leonard puts up 32 spot on Clippers (VIDEO)

    Apr 25, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs - Game Three Getty Images

    The Spurs are Kawhi Leonard’s team now.

  3. Arron Afflalo expected to play for Blazers in Game 3 vs. Grizzlies

    Apr 24, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    New Orleans Pelicans v Portland Trail Blazers Getty Images

    Portland, down 0-2 to Memphis, needs all the help it can get.

  4. NBA, 20 teams launch apps for Apple Watch

    Apr 24, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT

    celtics-cavs

    NBA continues its technological push.

  5. PBT Extra: Great playoff series to come in later rounds

    Apr 24, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT

    Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers

    Looking past the first round to some of the more exciting later matchups to come.

  6. Lakers to send Byron Scott to NBA Draft lottery

    Apr 24, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    He’s got to coach whoever they draft anyway, why not?

Featured video

Stephen Curry starting to define playoff legacy
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. C. Parsons (4719)
  2. D. Lee (4249)
  3. K. Durant (4173)
  4. R. Rondo (3989)
  5. A. Afflalo (3932)
  1. D. Rose (3930)
  2. P. George (3802)
  3. K. Bryant (3800)
  4. N. Mirotic (3748)
  5. D. Harris (3671)