It was right there, within Miami’s grasp. Miami went into the break with a 7 point lead, without Wade or James playing spectacular. Miami ended up getting outhustled down the stretch and lost the game 105-94.
Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers did their supporting cast job well. Battier was on fire from the start of the game and finished with 17 points, while Chalmers had 12. But the solid play of Miami’s role players was negated by Nick Collison and Derek Fisher. Collison had quite a few open dunks in the 2nd half, scoring 8 points on 4-5 shooting, while the veteran Derek Fisher hit a few timely jumpers.
Keys to the game
James Harden scored 5 points in game 1, and Miami still managed to lose by 11 points. It is certainly very discouraging, as you can bet Harden is going to play better in game 2. A lot of people criticize Rusell Westbrook for taking more shots than Kevin Durant, but he had an amazing game. 27 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds with only 2 turnovers kind of tell the story. Westbrook was relentless attacking the basket, getting to the line 9 times and scoring on a lot of layups.
Kevin Durant was the definition of clutch and practically closed the game out on his own in the 4th quarter before the game even reached the 3 minute mark. As always, he did an excellent job picking his spots, and when Scott Brooks demanded some aggression, the Durantula listened, injecting just enough venom to put Miami to sleep.
63-49. That’s the scoring difference between Westbrook & Durant vs James & Wade. James had an overall decent game with 30 points and 9 boards. He made a couple of big plays in the 4th, but they came way too late. Even though Wade distributed the ball well with 8 assists, he only managed to score 19 points. Wade has had some big 4th quarters in these playoffs, but he has failed to find any kind of consistency, and Miami are in desperate need for some “Flash”-heroics.
Serge Ibaka had 0 blocks in the game, and I think Miami did a good job to confuse the big guy. Starting out with a small line up, Miami forced Ibaka out of the paint as Shane Battier was hitting three point shots. That let James and Wade attack the basket more frequently, and Miami shot 46.2% from the field, despite James and Wade missing pretty much every jumper they took.
Miami have to go deeper into their rotation. James and Wade played 46 and 42 minutes respectively, and you can’t expect them to not run out of breath. Spoelstra played 8 players in total, with Anthony and Miller getting 2 and 10 minutes each. Now, I’m not saying give Norris Cole big minutes, but mix it up and make sure your stars come up big and peak in crunch time. It feels like Miami’s rotations have changed almost every game since the season began, and there has to be some consistency.
Miami did a lot of switching on defense, with James being on pretty much every player on the court. In the 4th quarter James has to be on Durant. On the other side, Durant was on James throughout the 4th quarter, and James absolutely has to attack Durant. James is so much stronger and he has to use that to his advantage as much as possible.
James and Wade missed a lot of jumpers in the 4th, and if that is the case again, Miami should really go to Chris Bosh. Bosh is more than capable of making a couple of big plays when needed, to let James and Wade take a possession or two off.
Chris Bosh should also be inserted back into the starting line up. Even though Miami were able to jump start in the first half, Battier’s three pointers are very on and off. Get Chris Bosh in there for some additional size and scoring.
All Miami need is a split in the first two games. A loss tonight, and the margin off error will decrease dramatically, practically forcing Miami to win 3 straight at home.