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The Miami Heat get their second shot at the Oklahoma City Thunder Thursday night, and they will throw some new wrinkles at the Thunder in hopes of slowing down their efficient offense. While Miami found points extremely difficult to come by in the second half of Game 1, the real problem was OKC's 58-point scoring barrage.
Both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant started scoring at will in the second half, combining for 41 points. Though LeBron James guarded Kevin Durant effectively in short bursts, he spent most of the second half on other members of the Thunder.
Thanks to Miami's frequent switching on defense, James is often all over the floor. Though it was effective against Boston, the Heat could end up having James cover only Durant. James is the only member of the Heat who can match Durant's speed and agility, allowing him to cover Durant on the perimeter.
Such a move could have interesting repercussions for the Heat. Miami could only muster four fast break points on Tuesday. It's hard to run in transition when the other team keeps making shots. A more effective defense, with LeBron on Durant, might be the catalyst that resurrects the Heat's run and gun transition offense.
Eliminating the switching could also make the Heat more accountable on the defensive glass, since each man will have a specific assignment. OKC grabbed ten offensive boards Tuesday, which is a lot for a team that shot 52 percent from the field.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will have more lineup flexibility in Game 2. James Jones missed the first game with migraine symptoms, but he is expected back. Mike Miller's minutes have been limited due to a number of ailments. Jones can give the Heat the three-point shooting Miller provides, and will probably be quicker up the court on defense than Miller.
Even so, the most important changes could come from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Bosh could return to the starting lineup in Game 2, and he will be expected to try to score some points close to the basket, something he did not do in Game 1.
"I think we're going to need more from him offensively and try to get him in spots where he is able to be aggressive," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday.
He had a similar assessment regarding Wade. "He had a couple of good opportunities to get into the paint there in the fourth, a couple of them he wasn't able to convert," he said. "But he was aggressive in that quarter, and so we'll try to get him in places where he can continue to be aggressive."
If Miami falls behind Oklahoma City 2-0, it won't be the end of the world (the Heat were down 2-0 in the 2006 NBA Finals, and the Thunder themselves trailed San Antonio 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals). But a return trip to Miami with the series tied 1-1 would be much sweeter, and would give the Heat an opportunity to close out the Finals at home (provided they can win Games 3, 4, and 5).
Game 2 tips off at 9 p.m. from Oklahoma City.