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2012 NBA Finals Game 3: 20 observations as the series shifts to South Beach

Jun 16, 2012, 11:00 AM EDT

Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Two

Here are twenty observations about the 2012 NBA Finals through two games as the series shifts to Miami for a three-game set.

1. First, and really, this can’t be stressed enough, the 2-3-2 format is horrible. I get why. I do. You don’t want the Finals dragging in for an entire month. But here’s the thing. And you don’t want to put teams on a two-day travel schedule during the Finals, even though you just got done putting them through the same for the Conference Finals, but whatever. Here’s my issue. If you went to the same schedule as a normal playoff series, only with adding an extra day in for travel, the series, if carried out to seven games, which is rare, would end on the 28th. Yes, that’s the same day the draft is scheduled. But that’s in an outlier lockout year. This same schedule for the Finals applies every year.

Having homecourt advantantage in a series is just that, you’re supposed to have a slight edge by having one more home game. But the 2-3-2 effectively rewards the higher seed by giving them an extra home game and punishes the other team by saddling them with a three-game set at home. Winning those three in a row is nearly impossible. The NBA would do well to fix this thing. It’s just not worth the impact on the series.

2.  This, considering context, is one of the most amazing blocks I’ve ever seen.

Which almost makes the twelve pumfakes Ibaka fell for and the half dozen rotations he missed totally fine.

3. The Thunder have an interior rotation problem, and it’s not just Kendrick Perkins, though he’s been especially bad. The gap between Perkins on and off court for OKC is wideer, but the Thunder are still better with Ibaka off than on as well, a +6.9 mark to +5.4 with him on. Even Nick Collison struggled in Game 2 with his usual brand of low-stats, high-impact performance.

A lot of it, honestly, is Chris Bosh. Bosh, for all the grief he’s taken, is still a pretty good player, and when he’s giving the kind of effort he has in these playoffs, both before and after his abdominal injury, he’s a tough cover. Perkins gets blown by by Bosh, Ibaka loses him on the pump fake or can’t maintain his spacing to contest the mid-range jumper, and Collison winds up fouling him. Ultimately, this may just have to be something the Thunder live with. We thought interior play was going to be a big advantage for OKC. Not so much.

4. It says a lot about the state of the positional revolution sourced by Free Darko that this series exists. You have two teams throwing small-ball lineups at one another for long stretches. One thing that does bug me is this description of Shane Battier as playing power forward. To say that Battier is playing the 4 because he winds up guarding a big is lost, because there are so many switches and cross-matches in this series that everyone winds up guarding someone they have no business guarding. In reality, Battier is playing combo forward alongside James, he’s just handling different responsibilities thereof.

5. He’s also shooting the freaking lights out, something no one expects to hold over the course of this series. It’s an interesting phenomenon. Thing is, guys will often have series where they simply cannot miss. You want an example? Against the Blazers in the playoffs last year, DeShawn Stevenson shot 40 percent from 3-point-range in 12 minutes per game. Against the Lakers, 35.7 percent in 13 minutes per game. Thunder? 23.8 percent in 20 minutes. Against the Heat, one of the best defenses in the league last year? 56.5 percent in 20 minutes. These things happen. You have to live with them, sometimes. Battier will probably plummet back to Earth. But don’t think for a second that this is some crazy outlier. Happens every playoffs.

6. When LeBron James asserts himself inside, the Thunder have absolutely no one who can adequately defend him without bringing at least two help defenders. Seeing James work in the post against Durant is like watching a sapling try to guard the Monstars. Dude bounced off him like a pinball. In Game 2, James took just four shots outside of the paint. So expect in Game 3 for him to shoot more than half outside, because he never sticks with what works.

7. Durant’s fourth-quarter shooting exploits have been the stuff you always read about and watch on retrospective videos. It’s like watching a legend happen before your eyes. This team is simply never out of a contest because of Durant’s range and scoring ability.

8. And what should be even more amazing here is that Battier has played tremendous defense on him. Outside of a few blown rotations and over-helps, Battier has stuck him all series, and stuck that hand in his face like Durant hates on every jumper. It just doesn’t matter. If the Thunder wind up winning this series on the strength of what we’ve seen from Durant the first two games, Battier and Craig Ehlo should go hang out.

9. You know what I’m not excited about as we go to South Beach? The crowd. And jokes about the crowd. And vitriolic responses from Heat fans about jokes about the crowd. And “They have fans?” jokes about the fans who are vitriolic about the jokes about the crowd. Just show up so we can let this go, Miami. You were there and loud for Boston Game 7. Treat every game like that.

10. Traffic is far and away he worst excuse by teams with weak showings from fans. Everywhere has traffic. There are degrees, but everybody has to leave work early. Come on, now.

11. LeBron James has talked a lot about getting back to having fun playing basketball this year. But since Game 6 of the Boston series, there has been no fun. No fun at all. The man is 100 percent business, and it’s kind of cool to see. No excessive dancing, no silliness. He’ll likely ruin this at any moment, but it’s been cool to see a player’s public persona evolve. He continues the be the most fascinating and divisive story in sports.

12. If you really think that the problem in Game 2 for the Thunder, a game in which they scored 105 point per 100 possessions and 115.9 in the second half, was Russell Westbrook‘s offense, I’m betting you caught maybe three Thunder games before the playoffs. It takes a complete misunderstanding of the Thunder offense to put this on Westbrook, and it’s a shame that he’s getting scapegoated (LeBron’d, if you will) like this. His defense in Game 2 was one of the things that kept the Thunder in it.

13. This series is about the Thunder defense and anyone who thinks differently is caught up in the trees trying to find the forest.

14. The blue-then-white cross-sections for OKC in Game 2 were genius and it created a really cool effect. White-outs are the worst, but blue-and-white-outs are pretty cool, it turns out. Created kind of a haze.

15. Battier may revert to form, but Chalmers is likely to step up and hit some big shots. Don’t sleep on Little Brother, he’s got some tricks in him.

16. I still find it incredible that Miami didn’t play Joel Anthony or Ronny Turiaf at all in Game 2 and still won the rebounding battle.

17. As much as I warned people off overreacting to Game 1, the same has to occur with Game 2. The Thunder can and will win at least one on the Heat’s home floor. This series is just getting started.

18. That said, the pressure dynamic has completely switched. If the Heat take the next two, they go into Games 5 and 6 in the “must win all the time no mistakes ever” mode which is really hard to maintain for two games, let alone three. If the Heat drop Game 4, but take Game 5, they’ve reacquired momentum headed into OKC where they know they can win. Losing Game 3, though, sets a whole different dynamic. If Miami comes out of South Beach with only one win, OKC will have broken their confidence. The series will end in 6 if that happens.

19. Well, the lockout and the legal battles and planking and greed and misery were nice, but I guess a highly entertaining series where the fourth quarter is always close and superstars are putting in superstar performances is OK, too.

20. Seriously, how much fun is this?

  1. dallascowboysfan101 - Jun 16, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    Thunder win in 7

  2. addictedzone - Jun 16, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    Has there ever been a more poorly worded phrase than…

    “Perkins gets blown by by Bosh”

  3. cmon2012 - Jun 16, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    whatever happened to 2-2-1-1-1. Best format

  4. kinggw - Jun 16, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    This article was clearly written by someone who cannot stand the Heat.These 20 observations are basically reasons why the Heat have been lucky and why OKC is so great.

    If you are in doubt about Moore’s love for the Thunder check numbers 13 and 14. Its apparent that Moore isnt a big fan of the Heat and thats perfectly fine.Someone may want to remind him that he isnt a beat writer for the Thunder and should at least try to sound objective.

  5. jbraxton3rd - Jun 16, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    Dump the 2-3-2

  6. funktron2x - Jun 16, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    Epic finals. They two best players on earth, scads of other allstars and role players galore. Im a Spurs fan, and I’m already getting over it. This is awesome, awesome stuff!!!

  7. matthewlmejia - Jun 16, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    Wrong on almost all accounts

  8. Tim Donaghy Institute of Refereeing - Jun 16, 2012 at 7:16 PM

    Battier is going to parlay his outstanding Finals performance into an endorsement deal with Sun-Maid.

  9. borderline1988 - Jun 16, 2012 at 10:07 PM

    I think the Heat win this series because of Bosh. Bosh can be completely shut down by the likes of Joakim Noah or Kevin Garnett, but when the opposing team has no one to guard him, he can create havoc.
    He’s too quick for anyone on the Thunder to guard, and his range forces his defenders to get out of the paint, which is where the Thunder bigs like to hang out.

    The Thunder have smart, athletic defenders on the perimeter, and strong, rebounding/blocking defenders in the paint. However, they are vulnerable in the mid-range, where Bosh likes to operate.

  10. nysportsfan1 - Jun 17, 2012 at 7:13 AM

    To unlock Bosh’s potential he needs to move to another club. Without a doubt he is a magnificent player but playing for Miami with the likes of D-Wade and LeBron James, Bosh just isn’t the right fit. Miami doesn’t need 3 superstars. They need a talented team.

  11. truthhurtstoo - Jun 17, 2012 at 7:18 AM

    Bosh is much better than “still pretty good.” He is an All Star and playing like one. Colored t-shirts? Really? Pretty weak in coming up for reason to favor OKC.

    With the HEAT leading for the entire game, call it was it was. OWNERSHIP

  12. simonwelds - Jun 17, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    Wow this article is terrible!!! Lol point #18 if the heat are up 3-1 they have 2 must win games and all the pressure???? So Okc will be in a good place down 3-1??

    I know your a heat hater but u can do better than this…. How about another meme

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