Game 2 of the NBA Finals started in a similar fashion as Game 1: the Miami Heat opening up a big lead, Oklahoma City battling back and making the fourth quarter must-watch basketball. Unlike the previous game, things didn’t bounce the Thunders’ way though, as Miami stood their ground to win 100 to 96 and knotting the series, plus stealing home court in the process. If nothing else, this series has been every bit as entertaining as NBA fans could ask for. Those watching Game 2 surely noticed a couple of trends.
1. Oklahoma City doesn’t like the first half. The Thunder have stumbled out of the gate during the first two games of the series. Blame any other factor that you want, but the odds are never in a team’s favor when they trail by 16 at the half. If Kevin Durant and co. want to win, they need to open like they’ve been
2. Shane Battier has never looked better. The former Blue Devil, forever labeled a “glue guy” by Bill Simmons, is looking more and more like the puzzle piece the Heat were missing against Dallas last year. Capable of hitting open looks and drawing timely charges, Battier has scored 17 points in back-to-back contests. While it’s unrealistic to expect him to continue shooting 70% from the field for the rest of the series, he’s proving that Miami has another scoring option that Oklahoma can’t ignore.
3. Russell Westbrook is turning himself into an adjective. It’s never been more difficult to describe the kind of impact one player has on his team. One minute, Magic Johnson is lambasting him, calling his style the worst point guard play he’s seen in a Finals appearance. The next minute, he’s tip-slamming a Kevin Durant miss into a timely fourth quarter bucket and nailing clutch jump shots. A college student should really take the time to work on a Westbrook-centered thesis paper. The only truth behind his game seems to be that no two people will have the same opinion about him.
4. Dwyane Wade looked like Dwyane Wade again. It’s impossible to say how long this will last, but Flash played like the All-NBA talent that Miami needs him to be. It seems less than likely that he can sustain this momentum, but as countless Jordan brand commercials have proven, Wade is a gamer. He feeds on the hate. Maybe Thunder fans should start believing in him.
5. LeBron almost looked really bad. He gets due credit for hitting those two huge free throws at the end of the game. But with his team up two with less than 20 seconds remaining, hoisting a fadeaway, one-legged three-pointer probably wasn’t the move. Once again, tip of the hat for the free throws and scoring 32 points, but that shot seemed destined for stardom. Lucky for him…
6. The referees are South Beach residents. It’s impossible to be unaffected by the reffing in the NBA playoffs, and this series in particular is sure to fan some conspiracy theorists’ flames. The amount of charges called is one thing, but LeBron’s blatant foul on Durant in the game’s waning moments was an inexcusable time for the refs to swallow their whistles.
7. Both teams run similar offenses. And offense is a generous term; more often than not, Thunder v. Heat has been defined by a series of one-on-one isolation plays, putting the ball in the hands of a select few players, and letting them do their thing. Chingy dropping this summer’s anthem seems likelier than either team mustering up an offense set more complex than a pick-and-roll.
8. The basketball has been great, but the best part of the series has to be those incredible Spider-Man promotions. Who doesn’t get riled up when superhero movies are spliced into Serge Ibaka dunk highlights? That’s just money well spent.