Entering the NBA Finals, Oklahoma City was scoring at such an electric rate it seemed that its Game 1 effort of 105 points on 24 transition points seemed par for the course. Russell Westbrook flew through the lane with reckless abandon, Kevin Durant proved unstoppable and the Miami Heat appeared vulnerable. But then the adjustments happened, and now the Heat has won two straight while containing the vaunted OKC fast-break.
The Thunder is not a team that relies solely on its running game -- it ranked second in the league in half-court efficiency (per Synergy Sports) -- but its uptempo attack is a juggernaut that feeds the rest of its offense. Scoring a combined 23 transition points over the past two games, OKC has failed to eclipse the 100-point mark for the first time in back-to-back games since Games 2 and 3 of its conference semifinal series with the Lakers.
Miami, in that span, has turned them over 25 times, scoring 29 transition points off of those turnovers. But why and how? Isn't OKC's offense supposed to be unstoppable?
With big time shooters like Durant and James Harden, OKC is a lethal cover from the perimeter, but as one of the best and most efficient paint teams in the NBA over the past two seasons, it loves to get in the lane. Erik Spoelstra and the Heat have taken away that painted area and forced the Thunder into jump shots. In Game 3, the Thunder shot a mere 13-27 at the rim, according to Hoopdata.com. The result has been challenged attempts in the lane and shockingly sound defense by Miami's mercurial big man, Chris Bosh. The maligned power forward had a timely block of a Durant drive late in the fourth quarter of Game 4 and has played terrific interior defense for most of the series thus far, limiting Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka for the better part of three games.
But particularly without Harden's normal infusion of scoring, the Thunder becomes a wildly predicable offense. The league's Sixth Man of the Year is averaging just 14.2 points per 36 minutes on a 52.8 True Shooting Percentage, down from his 19.0 points per 66.0 minute average in the regular season. With Dwyane Wade and Shane Battier covering him, he hasn't been able to shake free into the lane in isolation or in pick-and-roll scenarios, having absolutely destroyed San Antonio with the latter.
"He's their most efficient player when you let him get to his whole package," Battier said. "We just have to keep making him work. Keep him off the foul line and try to keep running him off the 3-point line."
That philosophy may seem overly simplified, but thus far it has worked perfectly. And over the past two games, so has Miami's entire schematic game plan on the defensive end. The bottom line is that Scott Brooks and company had better figure out the jigsaw soon, or the Thunder will be in danger of not playing at home again this season.
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