Miami Heat Confidence Meter: 9.4 (A little defense would be nice)
• So Erik Spoelstra plays his small lineup bringing Chris Bosh off the bench, and paid dividends early as the Thunder had issues matching up. The Heat got their drive and kick game going and Shane Battier was the recipient of those looks. He took advantage. It is not enough for Dwyane Wade to get good screens and defer to the kick game and hang your hat on hot shooting from Shane Battier. Dwyane Wade has to finish some of those plays that start with solid screens. Dwyane Wade settled for way too many jump shots. That was his game on this night. Defensively, he received a gameplan, very similar to what the Heat employed versus the Rajon Rondo. It was interesting that they did not attempt traps on Russell Westbrook, when the Thunder tried to run their offense through the high pick and roll. The Heat never delayed the Thunder offense, and had a poor disposition when setting their defense. If you are looking for a positive in this game, the Miami Heat did not play a lick of defense that didn’t come from their athleticism. Rotations were slow and recognition of what the Thunder was attempting was poor. Basically, the Thunder fell into semi-Isolation offense, and they drove at will in the first half. The Miami Heat would have had a 15 point lead if they had played just average defense on the Thunder in that first half.
• The funny thing that happened in this game was that Miami did a much better job of denying drives and blitzing pick and rolls. The Oklahoma City Thunder then reverted to a series of terrible shots. They hit them anyway. The Miami Heat adjusted their defense and improved their disposition in the second half, yet managed to play much poorer defensively while allowing the shots they wanted. Does that make sense? Well, I will try to make some sense of it. Simply put, they played poor defense in the first half, and had a good result. They played much better in the second half, and got a terrible result. Mid Range jump shots just went in. Gaining those jump shots were a different story. Terrible Heat defense contributed mightily in this regard. Too many simple 17 footers went down. It’s bad defense when you give up wide open mid range jump shots to Kevin Durant. When Russell Westbrook begins to hit them, you are in trouble. The only “fix” is to trap Westbrook as a staple of the Defense. You have to disrupt their rhythm. Simple as that. Kevin Durant is gonna score. But to allow 12-20 shooting points to a soft effort in defending him. Ball denial worked for a stretch in the first half, but in the second, he did not feel bodies and just moved toward his shots. That the Heat did not pressure the ball at all, helped with a second half effort by the Thunder that had them turning the ball over a mere 2 times. The Miami Heat played terrible defense throughout.
• The telling point was when Derek Fisher was inserted in the first quarter and was allowed to set the offense as the primary ball handler. This is something that did not happen in the regular season, so why was it allowed in Game 1 of the NBA Finals? There was one guy that played good defense within the gameplan and that was Mario Chalmers. He had the assignment on James Harden and limited his looks while bothering him on his dribble. Harden gained all of his offense as a secondary option. Everything he initiated went nowhere. The only part of the defensive gameplan that clicked on this night. Using LeBron James as a rover on defense while guarding Kendrick Perkins netted 4 steals in the first half, but when switched to guarding Harden, Westbrook, and Durant, he managed one deflection and one breakout attempt. The only thing we did not see was a concerted effort at ball denial on Kevin Durant by LeBron James. He never really matched up with him. He only got him on switches, of which the Heat did incessantly. I have never seen a Heat team switch so much and trap so little in a game. This was just poor defense.
• A move to Chris Bosh in the starting lineup is in the offing for Game 2. Maybe a start with a lineup more disposed to rebounding the basketball and running offense instead of the high pick / roll drive and kick game, is what they need at this point. Bosh seemed lost in his off the bench role and played as a support player instead of a guy that they run offense through. He looked like a guy that needed to get in the flow of the offense instead of trying to pick up the pieces as a support player. Chris Bosh played terrible defense in the second half and often lost his man for rebounds. Two offensive rebounds were directly his fault. That cannot happen. The Heat played soft on defense and it buried them on this night. Offensive execution was fine, except for the poor decision making. The chief culprits were LeBron James and especially Dwyane Wade. Too many bad decisions and bad shots. Simple as that. There was a lot to like in this one, especially since they played no defense whatsoever and had a chance to win in the 4th quarter. We can gain an opinion on this series when the Heat decide to play a little defense, and make solid decisions offensively.
The Heat stays in OKC for Game 2 on Thursday, Tipoff is at 9:00pm.