After a little time to regroup, rethink and reconsider what happened last night in Oklahoma City, here are five leftover thoughts:
1. What’s changed? The Heat have now won six straight games against the Thunder. Four consecutive in the Finals, two more this season. Including two in OKC’s building, which is a very impressive feat.
But what’s a bit forgotten is that the Thunder actually were the ones carrying the streak last season. OKC split with Miami the regular season during the 2011-12 campaign — home win, away — then took Game 1 of the Finals. The year before that, not long after acquiring Perk, the Thunder handled the Heat with ease in Miami in March.
Obviously the thing that’s changed most is that LeBron has risen to another level and the Heat have really developed a strong gameplan for defending the Thunder. But despite a six-game losing streak, it’s not as if the Thunder have no history of beating Miami. In the blowout in OKC last regular season, the Thunder outclassed and outmuscled Miami with Perk scoring 16 points, Serge Ibaka adding 19, Durant scoring 28 with eight assists and James Harden 19. Russell Westbrook shot poorly (4-16, 13 points) but it didn’t matter.
Also notable from that game: It was when Erik Spoelstra was still starting and playing two bigs together more than he does now. I’m not sure that outcome and the recent string of games is mere happenstance.
2. KD’s fall. I don’t think everyone’s really taken enough time with this. We basically all saw our lives flash before our eyes there. He got up, he stayed in and everything was fine. But holy mother, that was terrifying. Here are the first five things that ran through my head when he spilled out all over the floor.
- GET UP GET UP GET UP GET UP GET UP GET UP GET UP GET UP
- What parameters can you see a grief counselor for? Would “I almost witnessed my favorite player ever die right in front of me” qualify?
- I think I’m going to run out onto the court. That would be weird, right? Yeah, that would be weird. That would be too much.
- Thank God Wanda wasn’t here to see this.
- So, Russell Westbrook… he’s really good.
- Dear Batman, please save Kevin Durant.
- SERIOUSLY THOUGH GET UP.
- No, I’m not crying. Come on, man. I’m not. For real. LAY OFF I’M NOT. OK, maybe I swallowed hard and my eyes watered. But not crying.
- Separated shoulder, broken jaw, teeth knocked out, broken ribs, broken neck — he’s going to be fine though, right?
Never do that again, KD. Ever.
3. Where is Serge Ibaka? He could, and probably should, be the Thunder’s most important player against Miami. At least in terms of neutralizing one of their strengths and exposing other areas of weakness. Except in both games, he really hasn’t shown up.
Part of the problem is his role on the defensive end. With Miami playing small with Battier at the 4, Ibaka is sucked away from the paint and forced to cover the perimeter. It almost entirely removes his shotblocking ability for the reason he can’t put on a cape and fly from the 3-point line to the rim to swat away attempts.
But on the offensive end, he’s not involved in the pick-and-pop, something that should readily be available with the way Miami hedges hard and doubles the ball-handler in screen-and-roll.
4. Where is Kevin Martin? Just nine points on nine shots last night. And those were pretty much the nine quietest points I can ever remember anyone scoring. I barely remember Martin even being on the floor, except for the times I felt real sorry for him because he was caught in a switch defending LeBron in the post.
The Heat still consistently find extra production from outside role players. The Thunder don’t. Not even from their supposed “top” role guys, like Martin and Ibaka.
5. It’s not Perk’s fault that Durant shot terribly in the first half and that LeBron is awesome. Incredible how the court of Perk opinion flipped completely over again last night. Somehow, he became the obvious scapegoat for the way the Thunder performed.
I still maintain that yes, Perk isn’t ideal against the Heat. He shouldn’t play near as much as Nick Collison. That’s for sure. But keeping strictly last night’s 48 minutes in view, Perk’s play had very little to do with the butt-kicking the Thunder took. Other than the fact the Thunder got worked, I was most disappointed that this game wasn’t close so we could get a glimpse into how Brooks would approach his crunchtime lineups.
Again, I think against the Heat, it’s a lot less about Perk and more about playing two big men for extended stretches. Anger and frustration brings out the blame gun, and Thunder fans were firing at will last night. But don’t make blanket statements with assumptions from past experiences. Take last night’s game for last night’s game and understand that the Thunder — Durant, Westbrook, Thabo, Perk, Ibaka, Martin — played really poorly in the first half and dug a nightmarish hole.