The Miami Heat avoided a 0-2 hole after holding off the hard-charging Oklahoma City Thunder, 100-96, Thursday night in Game 2 of the 2012 NBA Finals. The series now heads to South Beach for games 3, 4, and 5.
Here are a few observations from Game 2:
HEAT USES THE FORCE
Erik Spoelstra talked about playing with more force after his Heat got hammered in Game 1. It was straight out of the Pat Riley book of coaching and the Heat responded by imposing their will on the Thunder. By inserting Chris Bosh — who hasn’t started since Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals — in the starting lineup the Heat played a more conventional lineup and were able to turn the tables on the Thunder in the rebounding department. After getting outrebounded 43-34 in Game 1, the Heat outrebounded the Thunder 40-36 thanks to Bosh’s 15 rebounds — seven on the offensive end — in 40 minutes. “We needed every bit of his big tonight,” Spoelstra said of Bosh.
SLOW STARTS NOT OK IN OKC
The Thunder have outscored the Heat in six of the eight quarters played, but the first quarters have been their Achilles’ heel. Oklahoma City got down 29-22 in Game 1 and it happened again in Game 2 as the Heat surged to a 27-15 lead in the first quarter and led wire-to-wire. “Two games in a row the first quarter let us down,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “It’s tough to come back when you’re down 17. I told the guys we’re a much better team to be down 17.” The Heat are too good of a team to be given a cushion every game, and Brooks better figure out how to get his team going early.
BATTIER ON A ROLL
Shane Battier is probably not on the Thunder scouting report because he has been wide open all series. In two games, the Heat forward has 34 points on 9-for-13 from 3-point range, including a key bank-shot trey in Game 2. This is the same guy who struggled to find the rim in the first two rounds of the playoffs, now he can’t seem to miss. Oklahoma City may have to start staying home on Battier because he is locked in and has provided a much-needed scoring punch from the outside, allowing LeBron James and Dwyane Wade more room to operate in the painted area.
DID LEBRON FOUL DURANT?
The conspiracy theorists are running rampant after some questionable calls Thursday night. The biggest one was the noncall on LeBron James when he appeared to foul Kevin Durant on his baseline jumper with seven seconds left in the game and the Thunder down by only two. Replays showed that Durant was thrown offbalance after James gave him a nudge on his shot attempt. When Durant was asked about it during his postgame press conference, he shrugged it off, didn’t use it as an excuse, and said: “I missed the shot, man.”
LEBRON CLUTCHES UP
We all quickly pounce on LeBron when he shrinks in the fourth quarter, but we should also highlight his brilliance when it deserves it. James made some clutch baskets late in the game, including an offbalance bank shot with the clock winding down that put the Heat up four and two free throws with seven seconds left to ice the game. LeBron had another monster game overall, scoring 32 points and grabbing eight rebounds in 42 minutes. He was also a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line. James also dug deep defensively, matching up with Durant for most of the game.
Dwyane Wade’s demise has been greatly exaggerated. “One day it’ll happen. Father Time will knock on the door and tap me on the shoulder. But not right now,” Wade said. The 2006 Finals MVP looked like the D-Wade of old, scoring 24 points on 10-of-20 shooting, and had seven in the first quarter. When Wade is in attack mode, like he was Thursday night, the Heat are a different team. He didn’t settle for jumpers and did most of his damage in the paint. In the fourth, he scored a tough floater and set up Bosh for a big-time dunk with under a minute left.