Lebron James doing work at PF.
We've got a series.
Thunder fans will dwell on the non-call Lebron James foul on Kevin Durant on a potential game-tying shot with 7 seconds left (would Durant even be in the game if they'd called the proper charge on him against Battier earlier?), but the game was decided two hours before when OKC spotted the Heat a 18-2 lead in the first quarter. Want to keep the game off of the judge's scorecards? Don't wait until the third round to throw your first punch. This is the third straight game that OKC has come out unprepared and unready for playoff action.
The culprit for the late starts is centered around four areas: energy, experience, Westbrook's make-up, and Brooks' inflexibility.
Energy, or its lack, is embodied in one particular OKC starter - Kendrick Perkins. Perkins made his NBA name for his ability to prevent 7 footers from posting at their spots and for his ability to set great picks. He is Laker Killer. He quickly became the player that casual fans and cliche-spewing announcers herald for doing "the little things" while missing the fact that he does none of the pretty big things, like convert gimmes, not turnover every other ball that touches his hands, show on defense against small line-ups, and punish small defenders on the offensive boards. Absent a traditional big man on the other side of the court, Perkins is useless, made most evident by the fact that you can watch teams actually leave him more or less unguarded six feet from the rim during a professional basketball game.
Scott Brooks has decided that Nick Collison's role is 4th quarter spark and Collison has excelled there. Perhaps that spark is needed at the beginning of the game, too? Nick's a big boy - he can handle 30 minutes. Nazr Mohammed can't defend but he can score in the post - are we really that concerned about Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem lighting him up?
Is there value in starting James Harden early, running offense through him, and then bringing Sefolosha off of the bench?
The point is: the starting OKC line-up is broken right now. Try something. You can't do worse.
The young Thunder also have to play through their early nerves and that's not really anyone's fault. The first 10 possessions of a NBA game are more like set piece execution than free-flowing basketball and it shows. Westbrook, in particular, needs time to get going - the Julio Caesar Chavez of NBA points guards. You want no part of him in later rounds, but he can be goaded into selfishness early when the Thunder have no half court plan.
The team would benefit from some actual sets and play calls (and Brooks is fully capable - check OKC's plays after a time-out, almost always well-executed) early in the game. OKC will still find its flow naturally as the game loosens up - this isn't about slowing tempo. Treat the first few possessions of the game like an in-bounds play after a time-out.
From the Miami perspective, they made the necessary adjustments and are playing smart. They played through Lebron in the post, allowing Wade to be the slashing point forward he is, Battier continues to shoot lights out, they played their bench and lived with the results, and they got a tough game from Chris Bosh. Bosh was so key. He allowed Miami to actually win the rebounding battle while dropping four defenders into transition after every shot attempt.
Both teams are sufficiently flawed such that home court should mean very little (until Game 6 or 7), both teams are incapable of matching up to the others best players, so now it's about basic adjustments, and which team rises to the challenge.
Whatever the result, we're being treated to a fantastic NBA Finals.