Miami came ready to play Tuesday night in Game One of the NBA Finals. The Heat jumped out to a 13-point lead and had everything going. They were forcing turnovers, they were getting out on the break and they were moving the ball.
Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier were getting open shots and taking advantage of an Oklahoma City defense still getting its bearings. LeBron James was being LeBron James and there was not much the Thunder could do to stop him.
As halftime approached, you could feel that lead slipping as Oklahoma City settled down and began running its offense. Once the defense found its footing, it was Miami's turn to adjust. The Heat couldn't, hoisting seemingly jumper after jumper as the Thunder took those misses and ran right by them with 24 fast break points and a Game One win.
The Heat flamed out because the jumpers stopped falling and the Thunder packed the paint enough to keep the Heat on the outside. Figuring out how to crack the paint again will be key for Miami to win Game Two because missed jumpers lead to long rebounds, and long rebounds lead to fast breaks. That is no what Miami wants to give up again.
According to HoopData, the Heat were 13 for 22 on shots at the rim and went to the foul line 18 times. The Thunder were 26 for 36 at the rim and went to the foul line 27 times. Which team do you think was more aggressive?
The Heat's inability to get to the basket and draw fouls took away a major part of their game. With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade attacking and slashing, the Heat offense is supposed to create space for shooters through their ability to create off the dribble. Miami's offense runs into most trouble when it devolves into James or Wade having to play one-on-one basketball too much.
That is what happened in Game One.
James got to the basket for six of his 11 makes and eight of his 24 field goal attempts. He did a good job of attacking and staying aggressively, seemingly carrying the Heat through a good chunk of the second half with the offense very bogged down -- James had 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting in the second half.
Wade was the problem.
His Playoff struggles continued as Dwyane Wade had only five attempts at the rim, making one of them. He also took five jumpers each from 3-9 feet and 16-23 feet, two inefficient spots to take shots, making half of his 10 attempts from there. Overall, Wade was 7 for 19 for the game, and his inability to get to the basket and create when called upon hurt Miami as the team relied more and more on LeBron to unclog the half-court offense.
That clearly did not work. Miami as a team went from shooting 22 for 43 in the first half to 14 for 35 in the second half. The Heat started turning the ball over and forcing things more on offense. It led to inefficiency and standing around.
Those two things led to Oklahoma City fast breaks, and those were clearly important for Oklahoma City as it pulled away.
How are the Heat going to fix this Thursday night?
Wade has to be aggressive and looking to draw contact when he gets the ball in his hands. That much is for sure. He has to be going into the paint with a scorer's mentality and really draw that defense in before kicking out to shooter. Both he and James cannot settle for jump shots most of the night.
Another thing that will help is stepping up the pressure defensively and getting out on the fast break. Miami is a very capable fast-breaking team and it got favorable cross matches in the first quarter especially when Oklahoma City was turning the ball over.
The Thunder have a propensity to turn the ball over that they have done a good job keeping under wraps the last few games. The Heat have to find a way to force them into their mistakes again and get out and run.
Oklahoma City has done what a lot of teams are doing by switching screens. This means Miami has to try and get James or Wade moving off the ball more to put them in positions to score. This is what Scott Brooks did with Kevin Durant throughout Game One when Miami was switching any pick and roll Durant was involved in.
Most importantly, the attacks to the basket will open up outlet passes. Miami has to be sure that one of the guards fills in and replaces the driver at the top of the key and can get back on defense should the shot miss and Oklahoma City gets running. The Heat want to attack the basket to generate better shot opportunities, but they cannot get stuck being late getting back in transition. Doing that will lead to another long night in Oklahoma City.
Game One was in Miami's reach even as the lead slipped out of its fingers. The key for the Heat is to remain the aggressors and not get overwhelmed if the Thunder get out and run.
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