Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook led the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 105-94 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals by totally dominating the second half of the game. After allowing the Heat to hit five of their first six three-point shot attempts, the Thunder trailed Miami 29-22 at the end of the first quarter. Both teams scored 25 points in the second, and the Heat held a 54-47 lead at halftime.
The Thunder picked up their defensive intensity in the second half and opened the third quarter with a 10-4 run to pull within one, 58-57, with 7:48 remaining in the quarter. Oklahoma City's second-half defense did a much better job of protecting the three-point line (Miami made just 2-of-9 three-pointers for the half) and limited the Heat to just 40 points.
Durant (36 points, eight rebounds and four assists) and Westbrook (27 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds) were absolutely phenomenal in their NBA Finals debut. The duo combined to score 41 of the Thunder's 58 second-half points and outscored the Miami Heat, 41-40, over the final two quarters of play.
The Thunder did what they were supposed to do and now hold a 1-0 series lead. If the Heat want to win Game 2 and go back to Miami with a 1-1 split, they will have to do a much better job on the defensive end of the floor.
2012 NBA Finals Schedule
Game 1: Tuesday, June 12, Miami Heat 94 at Oklahoma City Thunder 105, Thunder lead series 1-0
Game 2: Thursday, June 14, Miami Heat at Oklahoma City Thunder, 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 3: Sunday, June 17, Oklahoma City Thunder at Miami Heat, 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 4: Tuesday, June 19, Oklahoma City Thunder at Miami Heat, 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 5: Thursday, June 21, Oklahoma City Thunder at Miami Heat, 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC (if necessary)
Game 6: Sunday, June 24, Miami Heat at Oklahoma City Thunder, 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC (if necessary)
Game 7: Tuesday, June 26, Miami Heat at Oklahoma City Thunder, 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC (if necessary)
Down 1-0 in the series and needing to win at least one game in Oklahoma City to have any chance at becoming champions, the Heat have to play with much more aggression in Game 2. In Game 1, Miami allowed the Thunder to score 56 points in the paint.
Oklahoma City used dribble penetration to break down Miami's defense. When Durant and Westbrook attacked the rim, they were able to either score themselves or dish the ball off to open teammates for easy layups. When Thunder players got into the lane, Miami did not challenge them hard enough to deter Oklahoma City from making further forays into the paint. In Game 2, look for the Heat to protect the rim with a little more vigor.
I suspect that LeBron James, who defended Kendrick Perkins for much of Game 1, will spend a little more time guarding Kevin Durant Thursday night. It is also likely that Dwyane Wade will defend Russell Westbrook in Game 2. These two defensive changes might help the Heat limit Oklahoma City's dribble penetration.
Offensively, Miami, namely James and Wade, will have to be in attack mode from the get-go. James and Wade will have to attack the rim relentlessly and either score the ball or get to the foul line. It might also be a good idea for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to insert All-Star Chris Bosh back into the starting lineup. Bosh's presence on the floor could draw Serge Ibaka away from the basket and open up lanes for James and Wade to attack the paint.
If the Thunder want to maintain their home-court advantage, they will have to play Game 2 with the same focus and determination that they exhibited in Game 1. Throughout this year's playoff run, Oklahoma City has played with the poise and confidence of a champion. They haven't been rattled yet, and it is unlikely that they will get rattled by Miami's changes. Look for the Thunder to roll and remain undefeated at Chesapeake Energy Arena in the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
Mark is a lifelong fan of the NBA who has loved the game of basketball ever since his first trip to an NBA arena. Mark has watched more basketball games than anyone can count and has hundreds of articles about the NBA published on the internet. Mark also shares his random NBA musings and game-by-game predictions on RandomNBAFan.com.
More on the 2012 NBA Finals:Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder--Recap--June 12, 2012, Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder--Play By Play--June 12, 2012, Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder--Box Score--June 12, 2012, and Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 Schedule was used for this article.