Tag: Thunder Heat

Oklahoma City Thunder James Harden durin

NBA finals pre-Game 5 notes: Harden’s hand and some coach speak


MIAMI — Some notes from inside the AmericanAirlines Arena before Game 5 between the Thunder and Heat:

• Thunder coach Scott Brooks said James Harden and his bruised left hand were “fine.”

“He bruised his left hand, but he’s not affected,” Brooks said. “That kid is as tough as anybody on our team. He understands that you play through everything. Everybody is banged up.”

Watching Harden on the court in warm-ups, his hand didn’t seem to be bothering him.

• When asked about LeBron James — who had to sit out the end of Game 4 with leg crams — Heat coach Erik Spoelstra joked:

“The players will be hydrated.”

• If you are the Miami Heat, it’s tempting to think about what might be and lose track of the job at hand. That’s the kind of thing that keeps Spoelstra up at night.

“Hey, we have a game to play, okay, and what we have to focus on is trying to win this game,” Spoelstra said Thursday night before tip-off. “And that’s the perspective we have to have.”

• If you’re the Oklahoma City Thunder, it’s dangerous to look at the massive task ahead (no team has ever come from 3-1 down to win an NBA finals) and find it overwhelming. That’s the kind of thing that keeps Brooks up at night.

“I just tell the guys we’re not trying to win three games tonight,” Brooks said. “All we’re trying to do is play better for 48 minutes than the Miami Heat, and that’s very possible, and that’s all we’re focusing on.

• Tonight’s fan giveaway is a white towel with the Roman numerals XVI on them — that’s 16, the number of playoff wins it takes to get an NBA title. A number the Heat can reach Thursday.

Juwan Howard might “shed a tear” for LeBron if Heat win

Heat players Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller joke around during a team practice at the NBA basketball finals in Miami

LeBron James has always been a popular teammate. The guys in the locker room in Cleveland and Miami genuinely like him, see him as one of the guys and not aloof like some superstars.

That includes the Heat’s senior statesmen Juwan Howard.

He spoke with the Palm Beach Post about it after shootaround Wednesday before Game 5.

“Whenever that day happens, I will be so happy for him personally, because he truly deserves it,” Howard said. “He works extremely hard, he’s a team guy, he gets a lot of unfair criticism. And until you have walked in his shoes, you don’t know what it feels like to deal with all that. And my heart goes out to him, for how he handles it. And I respect him so much for how he handles it. A player of his caliber could be a total a——, but he’s the total opposite.”

“I might shed a tear, for him, if that ever happens.”

We’ll see if the Thunder can delay Howard’s tears on Thursday night.

NBA finals Game 5, Thunder—Heat: Five things to watch

Dwyane Wade, LeBron James

By the fifth game of an NBA series, there are not a lot of surprises left. There is no magical adjustment or lineup that hasn’t already been tried. The coaches have played their cards, made their tweaks, figured out the matchups they want and don’t want.

It’s about execution.

That’s where we stand heading into Game 5 Thursday night, with the Heat up 3-1. Miami stands on the doorstep of its first championship of the Big 3 era, LeBron James stands on the doorstep of winning a ring that has been nine seasons in coming. But crossing that threshold is another matter — closeout games are hard (right Andrew Bynum?) and the Thunder have been in every game late. This has been an entertaining series and Game 5 will be no different.

Here are five things to watch Thursday night.

1) LeBron James in the post. Miami has essentially played LeBron at the four this series and the Thunder do not have an answer. He will back down smaller players and score, he will pull bigger players away from the rim then drive by them, and if you bring the double team he is a fantastic passer (a dozen assists in Game 4). Poor James Harden has gotten this impossible task most of the time and the Thunder need to look for other answers because James is destroying them by getting to his spots right now. One answer might be to front him and deny him the ball, as the Heat have done to Kevin Durant.

2) How does Miami do while LeBron rests? In the wake of LeBron cramping at the end of Game 4, expect coach Erik Spoelstra to try and get him some rest in this game. That is when the Thunder need to pounce (or if you are the Heat, they need to hang on). Miami struggles to create as good of looks when LeBron sits, the Thunder need to get some stops and turn them into easy buckets in transition.

3) James Harden needs to be aggressive. He is he Thunder’s matchup nightmare and he has been hesitant, missed shots (4-20 shooting the last two games combined) and been turnover prone at times. Friend of this blog Sebastian Pruiti has a great breakdown over at Grantland you should read, but the bottom line is Harden used to attack, look for his shot and create for others off that. He needs to get back to that Thursday night.

4) Oklahoma City needs some easy buckets in transition. Miami is a very good halfcourt defensive team and even with guys like Durant and Westbrook the Thunder will struggle to score a lot against it. The Thunder need to pick up the tempo and run. That starts with their defense — they need some stops, but then they need to turn those stops into some easy points on the break. Like they did in Game 1.

5) Who wins the rebounding battle? Basketball is a simple game we can sometimes make complicated. Steve Perin pointed out a simple but revealing correlation at SBN — the team that has won the rebounding battle has won each game. Chris Bosh has been great on the boards for the Heat the past few games, Durant’s rebounding numbers have been down. It’