Serge Ibaka's reaction to a whistle.

2012 NBA Finals: X-Factor Update

Mario Chalmers won the X-factor battle in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against Serge Ibaka.

Before the 2012 NBA Finals started I decided I wanted to write a string of posts throughout the entire series on a couple of guys who would impact the finals, but not necessarily get any credit from other media outlets.

In other words, I wanted to track the X-factors for the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The initial post, “The 2012 NBA Finals: The X-Factors“, I named Mario Chalmers and Serge Ibaka as the series changers not named LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook or James Harden.

After Game 1, I feel the same way and will break down how both players hurt and helped their team; Chalmers won the battle. But first, I want to recognize two other players who stepped up and became X-factors for their respected teams in the first game of the NBA Fiinals.

The Heat’s Shane Battier is known as a defensive mastermind and a student of basketball. In the early minutes of the game he became a scoring option and hit some key three point shots to help the Heat gain an early 13-point lead. He finished the game with 17 points off 6-9 shooting from the field. Battier was open because OKC didn’t think he could knock down the opportunities and he took advantage of it.

Shane Battier drills a three in front of Russell Westbrook.

On the other side, back up power forward Nick Collison scored eight points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Thunder. Not only did he grab five offensive rebounds, two shy of the Heat’s seven, but he became a better defensive match up at the four spot for OKC than Ibaka.

This seems like a perfect transition.

Ibaka started the game off slow. He wasn’t involved in the offense and couldn’t find the loose ball for rebounds. Ibaka did find an offensive rhythm in the last few minutes of the second quarter as he scored six consecutive points for the Thunder on a dunk, mid-range shot and a driving lay up.

I think his slow start had a lot to do with the fact he was guarding Battier and was spread out on the wing, which was too far away for him to block or disrupt shot attempts in the low post. With this said, Brooks made some defensive adjustments and took Ibaka out of the game in the middle of the third quarter and wasn’t seen again.

The defensive match ups maybe a problem fore Ibaka in this series. If he can’t be closer to the basket, his defensive game is going to be thrown off and the Thunder are not going to win four games if the Heat realize this.

The Thunder’s power forward finished the game with 10 points off 5-10 shooting, six rebounds, a steal and an assist in 27 minutes.

In the box score, the numbers seem to look about the same. Chalmers finished with 12 points off 5-7 shooting, six assists, two rebounds and a block (on an Ibaka dunk) in 35 minutes. However, Chalmers’ impact on the floor was the defining factor on how he won the battle of the X-factor.

When Chalmers was on the floor, the Heat’s offense was moving. Whether he was dribbling the ball and creating, moving off the ball or making the extra pass to an open guy, the Heat’s offense looked coordinated. Chalmers and Bosh ran a couple of pick and rolls which worked out well because the mult-switch defense of the Thunder couldn’t keep up with them.

If Chalmers wasn’t on the floor, Miami went back to its isolation style of play. James, Wade or Bosh would take ten seconds off the clock dribbling or maneuvering with their opponent and then chuck up a contested jumper. In the Round Table discussion, I pointed out that the Heat’s offense can not become stagnant if the Heat want to win.

The first half of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth saw the Heat’s stagnant, non-movement offense, which I believe cost them the game.



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Tags: Chris Bosh Dwyane Wade James Harden Kevin Durant Lebron James Mario Chalmers Miami Heat Nick Collison Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook Serge Ibaka Shane Battier

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