In the grand scheme of things, it was a small play early in the third quarter of the Oklahoma City Thunder's 105-94 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. But if the commercials for "Prometheus" have taught us anything, besides the fact that Stephen A. Smith and Coors Light will combine to make you less excited about a movie you previously wanted to see, it's that big things come from small beginnings. Such was the case with this brilliant dish by Thabo Sefolosha.
Setting the table: After trailing for the entire first half and entering the third quarter down seven, the Thunder are down 58-53 with 9:30 left in the third. With the shot clock winding down, Serge Ibaka takes a not-so-hot perimeter jumper, which misses. Udonis Haslem goes after the rebound, but is beaten to the ball by Kendrick Perkins, who didn't have a good game and whose replacement in the lineup by Nick Collison was a major plus for the Thunder in the second half, but who does definitely hustle and try. That made a big difference here.
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Perk saves the ball back in and off Mario Chalmers' fingertips, allowing Sefolosha to dart in, take possession and take advantage of the fact that Miami now had four players ahead of the ball in anticipation of a break the other way. In one fell swoop, he dribbles to gather, steps toward Haslem, Miami's lone defender left, stares left at Perkins on the baseline and brings the ball back to the right to a wide-open, all-alone Westbrook, who finishes. All of a sudden, a bad offensive possession that looked like it could have turned into a Miami runout turns into two points for OKC, cutting the Heat lead to three and getting the Chesapeake Energy Arena rocking.
This didn't swing the game, of course — the Heat weathered OKC's initial second-half burst, answered back throughout the next several minutes and held a five-point lead with 2:05 remaining in the quarter — but these sorts of hustle moments matter. As Trey Kerby wrote Wednesday morning at The Basketball Jones, "Plays like this are how you win championships."
- Sports & Recreation
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Miami Heat
- Thabo Sefolosha
- Udonis Haslem