|Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) looks at the scoreboard against the Miami Heat during the first half at Game 1 of the NBA finals basketball series, Tuesday, June 12, 2012, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)|
NBA Finals questions: How will Heat bounce back?
OKLAHOMA CITY—The Oklahoma City Thunder ran away with Game 1 of the NBA Finals 105-94, controlling the second half and rallying from a 13-point deficit to protect home court against the Miami Heat. But as Heat guard Dwyane Wade said, the opener is "just a game to see" what both teams are going to do and then start making adjustments.
With Game 2 looming Thursday night, here's five questions and answers about what to look for:
CAN ANYBODY STOP KEVIN DURANT? LeBron James says yes, and it starts with not giving the three-time scoring champion open looks. Durant was left unguarded several times and he didn't miss the open 3-pointers and jumpers. James says those shots have to go, though Thunder opponents have been trying to do that since Durant hit the game-winner against Dallas in Game 1 of the first round. Durant also scored 16 straight points -- and 18 overall in the fourth quarter -- to help the Thunder tie the West finals at two games apiece.
IS LeBRON TRYING TOO HARD TO CLOSE? James scored an NBA Finals career-high 30 points, seven in the fourth quarter, but that wasn't enough for Miami and it won't be enough to squelch the "closer" questions. Kevin Durant outscored him by 10 -- the same margin the Thunder had on the Heat -- in the fourth quarter of Game 1, which will only fuel the fire. Durant made six of 10 shots and scored 17 points in the final stanza, continuing to cement himself as the best closer in the game. James was only 2 for 6 with one assist, opening himself up to more scrutiny after he did close out Boston in the East finals. James had been the game's dominant player through three quarters but will have to find a way to be more productive against Oklahoma City defensive whiz Thabo Sefolosha, who guarded him in the fourth.
SHOULD THE THUNDER PLAY SMALL MORE? As it has done through most of the playoffs, Oklahoma City's smaller lineup made a difference and coach Scott Brooks won't hesitate to go back to it. The Thunder outscored Miami 42-28 after guard Derek Fisher replaced power forward Serge Ibaka late in the third quarter, and neither of Oklahoma City's starting frontcourt players -- Ibaka nor Kendrick Perkins -- played in the final 14 minutes. And the move makes sense considering Perkins' specialty is defending the low post and Miami doesn't have a significant threat there. Ibaka is the league's top shot-blocker but he had none in 27 minutes in Game 1.
IS THE BALL IN ERIK SPOELSTRA'S COURT? Spoelstra lost the Game 1 chess match and wasn't saying what he plans to do for Game 2. He did say he'll have to see "who's really available" for Game 2, a veiled reference to some of the Heat's bench players apparently not being ready to play, and indicated that some could be ready by Thursday. The Heat essentially only went six deep in Game 1, with Mike Miller also getting 10 minutes off the bench, but none of the guys left on the sidelines have made a significant contribution in the postseason. The trick may be finding ways to get Wade and Chris Bosh, who were a combined 11 for 30 in Game 1, to be more effective. And that could mean putting Bosh back in the starting lineup.
SHOULD MIAMI PANIC? Though there will be chatter that the series is over, it's just one game. So the Heat shouldn't panic, and won't panic. While the home team has won Game 1 the last eight years, the road team has claimed Game 2 the past two. The Heat will have to be more efficient on the offensive end and keep the Thunder out of transition. Oklahoma City had a 24-4 scoring advantage on the fast break, including 11-0 in the second half. Miami, which can also get out and run, can't afford to have that sort of discrepancy. The Heat must also figure out a way to limit the damage in the paint, where Oklahoma City outscored them 56-40. Maybe the solution is a zone or better play from Miami's interior defenders. The only Heat player with a block in Game 1 was Mario Chalmers, the point guard.