Typically, the goal of the lower-seeded team in the first two games of any NBA playoff series is to split on the road to steal home court advantage back.
In these NBA Finals, the Miami Heat have successfully done that, so that gives them the “edge” heading into game three, right?
Most times, I would say yes, but in this situation I am not so sure.
With the way game two played out, you could make the case for both teams having the upper hand on the other heading into game three.
For the Heat, the edge is obvious: their formula of success hinges on their defense. It’s a chain reaction. Forcing a missed perimeter shot causes a long rebound, which allows the Heat to get out in transition with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
When that happens, there is not a team in the NBA that can beat the Miami Heat, and in a lot of ways this is why Miami is not as good a matchup for OKC as people think.
The Thunder are a jump shooting team, and a darn good one at that, but when you settle for perimeter jumpers all the time, run-outs are way more likely to occur than if you make a conscious effort to take the ball to the rim. Sure, Kevin Durant could get to the rim on a lot of guys, but his strength is his range and length to shoot over pretty much anybody.
However, OKC is going to play the way they’ve played all season long. Heck, if it’s worked, why change it? They need to proceed with caution though, as even their young athletic stars cannot stop the Heat in transition.
On the other hand, there are a lot of issues for the Miami Heat.
One thing OKC can do to slow down Miami’s transition game is simply not crash the boards as hard with their wings, allowing them to get back on defense much faster. You’d be relying on Ibaka and Collison/Perkins to do all the rebounding, but these guys are great rebounders and would certainly win the battle of the boards compared to Miami’s bigs.
Miami’s problems are much deeper than subtle OKC adjustments, though.
Even though they won game two, Miami still did not look like a composed basketball team. How many times did we see people bark at each other (especially at Mario Chalmers) in the final three minutes of the game?
LeBron hit a big bank shot and two big free throws towards the end, but the bank shot was the only shot he made all quarter as he still showed a lack of assertiveness.
Plus, Shane Battier hit five threes, and it took Durant missing a shot at nearly point blank range and a free throw to pull out a win.
Simply put, a lot of things went right for Miami in game two, and they can’t expect things to happen like that all the time.
So, to me, we sit here after two games just like we did before the series started: unsure of who is the better team and who has the “edge.”