Author: Matt Moore

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat - Game Three

NBA Finals Heat-Thunder Game 3: The Triad have found the nexus


In Miami’s 91-86 win over Oklahoma City Sunday night, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade scored 35 points on 34 shots. That’s a bad ratio. It would indicate that LeBron James (29 points on 23 shots) carried the team. But that’s off, you have to consider everything. The metrics, the plays, the context of the series, the matchups, everything. You have to see the whole board to identify what we saw in Game 3, and in this series.

And what we see is the Triad finding the nexus of their talents, playing together, playing well, and playing at the apex of their potential together, in terms of execution. The shots aren’t falling? That’s fine. The process matters more than the results in the course of a seven-game series ( as long as you win, right?).

What we saw in Game 3 was Dwyane Wade using the pick and roll and the Thunder’s adaptation to push the defense to the perimeter to find Chris Bosh inside for all three of his buckets. That forced the defense to adapt. That opened the perimeter for James to create inside. Their offensive rebounding forced adaptations. And James cutting inside, forcing the defense to slide to help, the doubles they forced, the intensity and execution created more and more opportunities.

But it was the defense that did it.

From the beginning, this Heat team was built on the concept that they had to play amazing defense to win. They had learned from losses to Boston and Orlando that the path to the title was through their defense, that their best use of their athleticism and talent was to extend and control the game defensively. This is a team that outshot the Knicks, outmuscled the Pacers, and outran the Celtics. Now they are grinding OKC down, behind the efforts of the Triad.

Chris Bosh had the best 3-12 game you’re going to find. 11 rebounds and 2 blocks. He posted a -7, but that stat doesn’t cover the late game impact he had. Bosh has also created a ton of possession for Miami by diving on the floor. He’s set the tone.

And that shouldn’t be overlooked, here. The Miami Heat are no longer “too good to try” in terms of these loose balls. They’re getting to the 50/50 balls and outworking the young guys. They look hungrier, more poised, and tougher. Those are nebulous things, but we see it with certain plays. Gone is the indecisiveness. When Wade works in isolation, LeBron’s no longer standing on the perimeter when Wade launches. He’s crashing the offensive glass. Wade’s no longer coasting possessions when LeBron works in the post. He’s cutting to the rim. They’re creating extra possessions and attacking early in the shot clock.

The uneasiness of how to make these players fit is gone, and much of it is seen in an approach that simply has stopped trying to out-think the opponent. The Heat aren’t waiting to make sure things are perfect. They’re using their talents, executing, and forcing things. Defensively, they’re attacking, attacking, attacking and the result in Game 3 was a Thunder team on its heels. There are times when it just seems too much, with Bosh making the smart play, Wade making the aggressive play, and James making the best play, often on one possession. It’s not dominant. It stalls at times. But they are close, so very close to that point where there’s just no way to beat them.

Still, the Thunder hang, hitting tough shot after tough shot, which is to their credit. And in Game 4, everything can be reversed, the Triad can go back into the mud, and it can end just like that. But in an ugly game, the Big 3 are creating what they need to, producing what they need to, building the team they want to.

They’re two games away from a championship.

Whether they stay here in the nexus may decide if those two wins are attainable.

Jeff Green’s agent says things are going great for Jeff Green on the free agent market. Yeah.

Jeff Green

You have to be rooting for Jeff Green. The Oklahoma City scapegoat before Russell Westbrook took over the mantle, Green was traded to Boston with huge expectations, and before he could settle in, a serious heart condition that proved to be life-threatening ended his season and put his life in danger. Now he’s on the comeback trail. There’s every indication that Green will return none for the worse, ready to hit threes and probably not rebound, but make big plays (people tended to underrate his ball pressure skills on the perimeter).

One person who’s going to make sure everyone knows how great Green’s doing? His agent, David Falk who released a slew of advance reviews to of Jeff Green like he’s selling the summer blockbuster.

“Audiences are thrilled! They say ‘Jeff Green’s Comeback’ is ‘Inspirational!’ – Bismarck Independent Christian Monitor, and ‘an action-packed ride that rivals ‘Die Hard!’ – the Hutchinson Free Conservative Report. ‘The most fun I’ve had with a combo-forward since Anthony Randolph!’ raves the Beaumont County Clerk’s Office.”


Because Green became an unrestricted free agent in December after Boston withdrew its $9 million qualifying offer, teams are already calling Falk’s office to discuss his possible exodus from Beantown. Free agency negotiations won’t officially begin until July 1, but Falk said he has already had exploratory discussions with “12 to 14 teams.”

While there is a strong mutual interest in Green returning to the Celtics, Falk said it’s far from certain that it will turn out that way. Boston has nine unrestricted free agents in all, most notably Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. And judging by his view of the free agent market on the whole, Falk — who is best known as the longtime agent of Michael Jordan and an influential advocate of the league’s stars for the last 30 years — will be driving a hard bargain as always.

“With the possible exception of (Brooklyn point guard) Deron Williams, I think that Jeff will probably be the No. 1 unrestricted free agent on the market,” Falk said. “It’s not like we have LeBron (James) and (Dwyane) Wade and all these guys floating around.

“I’d be very surprised if Deron Williams winds up anywhere besides Dallas or New Jersey (Brooklyn). So the next guy in the pecking order is Jeff Green.”

via Jeff Green garnering plenty of interest while ex-team contends for a title – Sam Amick –

Woah, woah, there, David. Don’t blow all your promotional budget in the first three weeks! Saves something for the Oscar push!

But you know what? Green can play. He needs to rebound better. He needs to find a solidified spot on the floor, a role with a team. But he can play. There’s been no indication that the heart condition is going to give him further problems. He’s got range to 30 feet. He’s athletic, and make plays, and may just need the right coach to put him in a position to succeed.

But wow, you have to be impressed with this effort from Falk. Dude that sold Michael Jordan isn’t backing off of the full-court press. Guy could sell ice cream to people living in Antarctica.

Report: Scott Brooks turned down 3-year, $11 million extension offer

Scott Brooks

These Finals don’t feature coaching legends. Both Scott Brooks and Erik Spoelstra face constant doubts and criticism from fans and media. This is how it works if you haven’t won a title. Win one, and you’re on a whole other level, you have the credit built up and no matter what you get the benefit of the doubt. No one’s talking about Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers getting out-coached at the end of their series.

But even beyond that, Scott Brooks isn’t even on contract past this year. That’s pretty stunning. The man has guided the Thunder from tadpoles to warrior frogs, from the lottery to winning the Western Conference, and yet he doesn’t have a contract. Turns out that’s because the exact value of keeping Brooks is somewhat of a disagreement point for the Thunder and Brooks (and his agent). From Yahoo Sports:

What’s more, Brooks is still working to solidify his own future as Oklahoma City coach. GM Sam Presti wants him back when his contract expires at the end of the Finals, but league sources say Presti has offered a three-year deal worth just under $11 million that Brooks and his agent weren’t willing to accept in the past. They’ve set aside talks for the playoffs, and compromise could come with a guaranteed fourth year. The Thunder needed to see Brooks take one more step with this young team before committing too far into the long term, and Brooks delivered with a conference final victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

via Thunder trying to prove NBA Finals experience doesn’t matter – Yahoo! Sports.

You have to imagine that Brooks has already won himself a larger contract than that with this playoff run. Winning a championship in particular puts him in a whole other price range. There’s also the value of keeping the stars happy, as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will want to retain Brooks should they win the title. There’s a psychological effect that draws people to want to stick together after success like that.

Brooks has been instrumental in crafting this team, in developing Westbook, Harden, Durant, and Ibaka. He’s built a solid roster with great chemistry that plays together. He’s done what’s been asked. He won’t be leaving the Thunder, but it’s going to wind up costing them. It’s difficult to see the Thunder wanting anyone else to take the reins.

2012 NBA Finals Heat-Thunder Game 3: Five things to watch

Miami Heat's James goes to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder's Durant during Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals in Oklahoma City

With the Heat and Thunder knotted at 1-1, the NBA Finals resume Sunday night for the latest in a series of “pivotal” games. Both sides have accomplished some things in the first two games beyond just the one win, and both have established challenges they’ll have to overcome. Here are five things to keep an eye on as the Miami Heat host the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

1. A Bully In the Schoolyard: LeBron James went to work inside in Game 2. 18 of his 20 points off of field goals came from shots in the paint, with more coming on fouls drawn inside on post-shots and drives. The Thunder adapted well in the fourth quarter, sending multiple defenders at James on the pick and roll but they haven’t figured out a solution for the post yet. They can double, but James is such a good passer, you’re risking giving up a high percentage look. They have to get James discouraged with his post play to the point he abandons it, or swarm him to force turnovers. One thing that will not work is guarding him one-on-one with Kevin Durant. Durant just doesn’t have the size to counter James’ brute strength.

2. Living On The Line: For all the complaints about the officiating in Game 2, the Thunder had one more free throw. Both of these teams are drawing a lot of fouls. If the officials stop calling things, that’s going to favor the Heat, with their more physical approach and experience against Boston. But if the perimeter calls increase, that’s a good thing for Oklahoma City, who can eat you alive with free throw attempts.

3. Something Inside: Kendrick Perkins is getting killed this series. In every game, it’s a battle between what Perkins can provide on defense and what having him on the floor sacrifices inside. Unfortunately, in this series, it’s been damaging on both ends. But Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison have struggled as well. The Thunder need to attack Udonis Haslem who’s been having a hard time in the playoffs finishing plays with blown catches, and who gives up some length and size. The Thunder have to get contributions from the bigs on both ends or they’re sunk. They cannot lose the battle down low.

4. Late Beard Assault: James Harden was severely limited in the 4th quarter of Game 2 after keeping the Thunder alive offensively in the first half. Getting him more looks is important, because he’s one of their only real playmakers. Harden creates opportunities for other players, including the superstars with open looks, and is able to knock down contested shots. He can’t be frozen out, even for Westbrook and Durant. More plays have to be run with him as intiator.

5. Glass Houses. The Heat got back on the rebounding battle in Game 2, but it’s still an area of difficulty for them. Chris Bosh has to have double-digit rebounds and Dwyane Wade needs to contribute as well. They’re a guard-rebounding team, and they have to stick to that. Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf have been frozen out of this series and with Erik Spoelstra rarely making changes once he sets plans for a series, its’ clear they want to stick with the small-ball approach. That means more of an emphasis on the Big 3. Like that’s something they need.

LeBron says you can’t stop KD, you can only hope to contain him. That also will not work.

Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder – Game Two

Lost in the eternal pursuit of a high quality shot by any NBA team on a given possession in the name of efficiency is this reality: you’re always going to have bad possessions. End of the shot clock, up against a trap, heat checking, trying too hard to victimize a mismatch, all these things happen routinely. Playing a defense like Boston’s is essentially a battle of which team winds up in worse possessions. But that’s where star players come in.

Star players are able to convert low percentage shots at a high rate. Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, these players can turn those contested fadeaways into points where others cannot. It’s a double-edged sword, but it’s also a very useful one when you have guys who can hit tough shots.

That’s what makes Kevin Durant so ridiculously dangerous. He doesn’t go to the well so often that he hurts his team, but he can also hit any shot, from anywhere, no matter the contest. Don’t believe me? Ask LeBron James, who said this at practice availability on Saturday:

LeBron on KD: “Well, I mean, like you say, you can’t stop KD, you just don’t try to give him easy ones. You don’t want to give him an easy dunk in transition where you didn’t get back on defense, or you give him a transition D because you didn’t communicate and gave up and things like that of course, but he’s going to make shots. He can make any shot the game has to offer, off the dribble, off the catch and shoot, off pindowns, he can make every shot. You just try to wear on him, but he’s going to make his shots and get his points because of the type of player he is.”

via Royce Young’s post on NBA Finals | Latest updates on Sulia.

This is correct. We think of Durant for the jumpshot the same way we think of LeBron James for the dunk, the two shots emblematic of their playstyles. But both have the capacity to do the other. James’ off-balance, inconsistent jumper still goes in a large percentage of the time, Durant can still throw down with the best of them. Keeping him away from the basket isn’t going to force him into a low percentage. Nothing will. But it’ll give you a fighting chance at scraping off a few points, six maybe, and in a series this close, that may be enough to win.

In a series like this, it’s all a game of inches.