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NBA Finals: Could Miami's Defensive Solution Be LeBron on Westbrook?

Thunder 105, Heat 94 was fun – Miami once led by 13! One-point game going into the 4th quarter! – and simple:

Miami’s LeBron (30 points on 24 shots) and Wade (19 points on 19 shots) were outplayed by Oklahoma City’s Durant (36 points, 17 in the 4th) and Westbrook (27 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds), and now the Thunder lead, 1-0. With less than a minute left in the 4th quarter, Durant and Westbrook had scored 39 points in the 2nd half; the Heat had 38 points.

How dominant was Durant in the 4th? Last year in the Finals, LeBron James scored 18 points in the 4th quarter – in the series. (Surely you remember his struggles.) Durant’s 17 in Game 1 nearly matched that total.

At the risk of reading too much into one game in a place the Thunder never lose … advantage, Scotty Brooks. He threw the kitchen sink at LeBron for the first three quarters (Harden, Westbrook, Durant, double teams, etc) and then saved his best defender, Thabo Sefolosha, for last. He mostly neutralized LeBron in the fourth. Brooks stuck with active, effective Nick Collison (8 points, 10 rebounds), and didn’t force the NBA’s best 6th man, James Harden (2-of-6 in only 22 minutes) into action. Meanwhile, Spoelstra only played six guys (seven if you count Mike Miller’s ineffective 10 minutes). Coming off a grueling 7-game series, that may not have been wise. Chalmers and Battier shot 9-of-12 for 23 points in the first half; they shot 2-of-4 in the 2nd half when OKC made defensive adjustments. LeBron got little help from Wade and jump-shooting Chris Bosh (4-of-11).

If the Heat are to steal game two, the big question has to be how the Heat plan on slowing down Durant. Do you put Battier and Haslem on the league’s best scorer early, and then have LeBron lock him up in the 4th? You can’t have LeBron shadow Durant, plus carry the Heat for three quarters offensively and deliver in the 4th. Or do you consider putting LeBron on Westbrook and taking him out of the game? Would Brooks then be forced to tinker his lineup for offense?

Since you’ll want to talk about LeBron … I thought he settled for too many jumpers. This shot chart shows he attempted 10 and only made two. I think what we’ll find in this series if that LeBron can go off like he did in Game 4 vs. Indiana or Game 6 vs. Boston and carry the Heat to victory … but the Thunder are far too skilled offensively to let one player beat them.

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