Oklahoma City’s slow starts a question against Miami
It’s a strange concept, really.
The Oklahoma City Thunder just can’t start a game the right way.
Sure they’re young and, yeah, they’ve never been this far as a team, but they won’t beat the Miami Heat if this keeps up.
Oklahoma City had 15 points in the first quarter of Game 2, exactly two more than the record for fewest in the opening quarter of a Finals game in the shot-clock era.
That’s Oklahoma City, the team that leads all playoff teams in scoring after finishing second in the regular season.
The Thunder was able, at home, to overcome an early 13-point deficit in Game 1 but not a 17-point discrepancy in Game 2.
“We’ve got to come out better,” Thunder Coach Scott Brooks said, a capital understatement going into Game 3 Sunday.
With the series tied at 1-1 and three consecutive games in Miami, Oklahoma City has no choice. Another soft start will surely cost the Thunder a game without its vocal, incredibly supportive home crowd to sway momentum down the stretch.
“We can’t get down that much,” Kevin Durant said. “We’ve got to correct it.”
It would help if Russell Westbrook didn’t miss his first six shots, some of which were jumpers and some just plain out-of-control attempts.
“I didn’t think so,” he said. “I just thought I was playing my game, got easy shots that I usually make. Layups.”
In Miami the fans won’t be as frenetic, but the Heat tied San Antonio for the best regular-season home record (28-5) and held a solid 8-2 mark in the playoffs so far.
Oklahoma City was 21-12 on the road in the regular season but only 4-3 in the playoffs.
Suddenly complicating things for the Thunder was the improving Chris Bosh, who had 16 points and a playoff-career high 15 rebounds in Game 2 as the Heat led wire to wire, the first time that happened in a Finals game since 2005.
Bosh started for the first time in a month after missing three weeks because of an abdominal strain. He played four games as a reserve but was “sensational” in his return to the starting five, Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra said.
“We needed every bit of his big and that’s what he brought,” Spoelstra said. “He gave us a lot in the paint and we need that again and again and again.”
Miami also got another strong effort from 33-year-old Shane Battier, who averaged 5.7 points in the playoffs before the Finals. Known more for his defense and locker-room intangibles, Battier had 17 points each of the first two Finals games.
“Yeah, and that’s when everybody notices Shane Battier, when the ball is going in,” Spoelstra said. “We notice everything else before that.”
Meanwhile, there’s James. Unsuccessful in two previous trips to the Finals, he is averaging 31.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists so far this time.
He made all 12 of his free throws in Game 2, including a pair with 7.1 seconds left that provided a four-point cushion.
“He’s been doing it in so many different ways this playoff run,” Spoelstra said. “Sometimes he’s had close to 20 rebounds, defensive plays, attacking the basket, big threes, and he’s at that point right now, whatever it takes.”
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