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NBA finals Game 5, Thunder—Heat: Five things to watch

Jun 21, 2012, 1:56 PM EDT

Dwyane Wade, LeBron James AP

By the fifth game of an NBA series, there are not a lot of surprises left. There is no magical adjustment or lineup that hasn’t already been tried. The coaches have played their cards, made their tweaks, figured out the matchups they want and don’t want.

It’s about execution.

That’s where we stand heading into Game 5 Thursday night, with the Heat up 3-1. Miami stands on the doorstep of its first championship of the Big 3 era, LeBron James stands on the doorstep of winning a ring that has been nine seasons in coming. But crossing that threshold is another matter — closeout games are hard (right Andrew Bynum?) and the Thunder have been in every game late. This has been an entertaining series and Game 5 will be no different.

Here are five things to watch Thursday night.

1) LeBron James in the post. Miami has essentially played LeBron at the four this series and the Thunder do not have an answer. He will back down smaller players and score, he will pull bigger players away from the rim then drive by them, and if you bring the double team he is a fantastic passer (a dozen assists in Game 4). Poor James Harden has gotten this impossible task most of the time and the Thunder need to look for other answers because James is destroying them by getting to his spots right now. One answer might be to front him and deny him the ball, as the Heat have done to Kevin Durant.

2) How does Miami do while LeBron rests? In the wake of LeBron cramping at the end of Game 4, expect coach Erik Spoelstra to try and get him some rest in this game. That is when the Thunder need to pounce (or if you are the Heat, they need to hang on). Miami struggles to create as good of looks when LeBron sits, the Thunder need to get some stops and turn them into easy buckets in transition.

3) James Harden needs to be aggressive. He is he Thunder’s matchup nightmare and he has been hesitant, missed shots (4-20 shooting the last two games combined) and been turnover prone at times. Friend of this blog Sebastian Pruiti has a great breakdown over at Grantland you should read, but the bottom line is Harden used to attack, look for his shot and create for others off that. He needs to get back to that Thursday night.

4) Oklahoma City needs some easy buckets in transition. Miami is a very good halfcourt defensive team and even with guys like Durant and Westbrook the Thunder will struggle to score a lot against it. The Thunder need to pick up the tempo and run. That starts with their defense — they need some stops, but then they need to turn those stops into some easy points on the break. Like they did in Game 1.

5) Who wins the rebounding battle? Basketball is a simple game we can sometimes make complicated. Steve Perin pointed out a simple but revealing correlation at SBN — the team that has won the rebounding battle has won each game. Chris Bosh has been great on the boards for the Heat the past few games, Durant’s rebounding numbers have been down. It’

  1. heat256 - Jun 21, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    No win in this series has really been easy for either team. I think if the Heat keeps doing what they are doing and adds a wrinkle or two to keep OKC on their heels, they have a great shot at closing this out. To be in it the last three games and not be able to win has to be demoralizing to OKC. Harden looks like he’d rather be anywhere than on a basketball court this series. Ibaka is basically a non factor. it really leaves it up to Westbrook and KD, which is a recipe for failure. They will score a bunch, but without someone else chipping in and doing the little things, they won’t win. Miami is doing just that, and that’s why I expect them to close this out and finally get that ring for LBJ.

  2. natsattack - Jun 21, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    What happened to the last sentence?

    • truthplainandsimple - Jun 21, 2012 at 3:03 PM

      Man, I told Kurt about posting from his Blackberry…

    • eddiecrash1976 - Jun 21, 2012 at 5:11 PM

      Yeah cause Lebron isnt averaging 25 points per game in the playoffs! I know all you haters were jumping with joy when you saw Lebron go down, but how short lived was it? He came right back and hit a layup on Sefalacaca and then came right back and hit a three to all the haters dismay! He tore the heart and soul right out of you, oh man if I could just see the look on your faces! Instant Classic I bet!

  3. dirtybird2020 - Jun 21, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    And 6, the refs quit sucking off the heat, and their queer fans!

    • truthhurtstoo - Jun 21, 2012 at 3:25 PM

      one more day and your stupid ignorant comments will cease…. tool that you are

      • lyndseymarieee - Jun 21, 2012 at 5:26 PM

        No they won’t. The haters won’t go away when/if the Heat when a ring. I wonder when people will realize this?

  4. dirtybird2020 - Jun 21, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    And 6: the refs quit sucking lebrons d$&@ and actually just disappear for 48 min!

  5. dirtybird2020 - Jun 21, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    6: the refs disappear fir 48 min

    • truthhurtstoo - Jun 21, 2012 at 3:27 PM

      I saw your picture (mugshot) in the post office today. Stay away from the school yards…

    • eddiecrash1976 - Jun 21, 2012 at 5:03 PM

      That’s riiiiiiiiiight! Go refs! Muahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
      Go HEAT!

  6. dirtybird2020 - Jun 21, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    7: heats fans blow, actually think the games arent ref jobs, nba is like boxing now certain players are protected

    • eddiecrash1976 - Jun 21, 2012 at 5:07 PM

      Well all you have to do is get one on your team! Muahahahahahahahahahahahahaa
      Go HEAT!

  7. dirtybird2020 - Jun 21, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    8: lebrons mom starts sucking off delonte west so lebron disappears and the refs dont have to

    • eddiecrash1976 - Jun 21, 2012 at 5:04 PM

      Go REFS! Muahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
      Go HEAT!

  8. ceschatz - Jun 21, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    9: dirtybird2020 life revolves only around his hatred for the Heat, hence the reason he has never been laid.

    • truthhurtstoo - Jun 21, 2012 at 3:28 PM

      his sad little life will soon be over….

  9. dirtybird2020 - Jun 21, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    10. Not true i laid lebrons mom just like the whole heat team! Queer

    • eddiecrash1976 - Jun 21, 2012 at 5:04 PM

      Go Lebrons MOM! Muahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
      Go HEAT!

  10. rodge1 - Jun 21, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    dirtybird2020 will always be a bitch. That’s why we call him ditybitch2020.

    • jimeejohnson - Jun 21, 2012 at 4:03 PM

      Guys: you made me laugh my ass off! I don’t get upset by these crazy comments; I get a kick out of just how out of their minds some of these crazies get. But the responses are hillarious and well worth the read. Thanks.

  11. klownboy - Jun 21, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    This game will be a blowout by game’s end. No way OKC rebounds mentally and comes back tonight with a win. I wish it were a longer series (though it’s competitive as hell), but it ends tonight…
    http://wp.me/p1gCK6-pg

  12. gmsingh - Jun 21, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    6) Watch how lopsided the foul calling is as the Heat make more trips to the free throw line yet again to help insure their victory.

    • eddiecrash1976 - Jun 21, 2012 at 5:05 PM

      Lets go REFS! Muahahahahahahahahahahahahah
      Go HEAT!

  13. alan3008 - Jun 21, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    This should be like taking candy from a baby for Miami because:
    THE REFS RARELY CALL FOULS ON LEBRON AND CALL FOULS ON THE THUNDER FOR THE SLIGHTEST INFRACTION. THIS IS A SCAM. NBA IS FIXED AND THE REFS ARE PART OF IT.
    That is why I like college basketball much better.

    • kegwi - Jun 21, 2012 at 10:45 PM

      This is why you’re an idiot

  14. alan3008 - Jun 21, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    Lebron is protected by the refs the same way Jordan was. Rarely call a foul on him.

  15. Miami305 - Jun 21, 2012 at 6:02 PM

    Amazing how people always blame the refs when their team does not win.

  16. kcbaby58 - Jun 21, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    I’m not a fan of either team, but it is sickening watching the refs favoring the flopping miami heat. Wade flops more than all the other players combined. Gotta give Labron credit for not falling into this epidemic sweeping over the NBA.

    • kegwi - Jun 21, 2012 at 10:43 PM

      Watch the game, not ESPN. Get a clue

  17. censoredpost - Jun 21, 2012 at 7:35 PM

    Lebronicus!!

  18. mannyfresh209 - Jun 21, 2012 at 8:20 PM

    winner wins the series. let’s go heat!

  19. kegwi - Jun 21, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    OKC is too young, inexperienced and are caving in the pressure
    Kiss your mom KD.

  20. kegwi - Jun 21, 2012 at 10:40 PM

    The refs are making OKC miss all their shots! Bahahahahahaha

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