The 2012 NBA Finals: Keys to Game 3

Will Russell Westbrook pass the ball more or will
 he continue to attack with reckless abandon?
(Photo by Associated Press)
Can Chris Bosh come up with another double-double
and outplay the entire Thunder frontline?
(Photo by Associated Press)
The series has shifted over to South Beach for Games 3-5. There will be distractions for the OKC Thunder players off the court as they will spend more than a week in Miami. It's no secret that Miami has more to offer in terms of entertainment and pleasure compared to Oklahoma City but the Thunder dont need any more distractions. They would love to keep all the distractions on the basketball court since the regular criticisms  thrown at Russell Westbrook have emerged after their Game 2 loss. Westbrook has played well so far but has erred on his shot selections and his critics have urged him to pass the ball more. The Thunder needs to focus on these for Game 3:

  • No more slow starts. The Thunder has fallen behind early by double digits in their last 3 games. They were fortunate enough to win 2 of them but that trend cannot continue in Miami because the Heat can put them away. For all the 4th quarter heroics of Durant, you cannot expect him to continue burning the Heat every time in the last quarter of a frenetic comeback.
  • Better shot selection by Westbrook. His critics have hammered Russell for taking shots away from Durant and Harden. RW has the most shots taken for the Thunder and that cannot continue if he is only making 40% of them. Westbrook must try to look at other's first before deciding to shoot.
  • Sit Kendrick Perkins. Perk has been the starter in the first two games and his presence has allowed the Heat to build an early lead (-17 in game 2). Perkins is a below average defender of the pick and roll and his limited foot speed has helped the Heat attack him in transition. Ibaka or Collison should play the bulk of his minutes since they provide more defensively and offensively. 
  • Stick to Shane Battier. He has been a big boost to the Heat offensively with 9-13 treys and he has made big shots down the stretch. The Thunder needs to contest his shots and never leave him open. Consequently, they can attack him more on defense to get him in foul trouble.  

Meanwhile for the Miami Heat, they accomplished a split in OKC but they need to win their games at home to make that split count. The Heat need to win at least 2 of the next 3 games in Miami to have a realistic chance of winning the title in OKC. No team has won all 3 games in the middle of the 2-3-2 format since 1985. A lot more pressure rides on the Heat if they dont win this year especially since Dwyane Wade appears to be slowing down and the Thunder could possibly be better next year. This year could be their best chance to finally win that first title for the Heat 3. First things first, they have to win Game 3.

  • Big Bosh Man. Chris Bosh needs to be a force on the boards and he cannot settle for perimeter shots after a dominating effort from Game 2. Bosh must continue to alter his game depending on who is guarding him. If Ibaka is on him, CB must use more shot fakes and jumpers to force Ibaka out of the paint. If Perkins/Collison on him, CB must use his quickness and drive to the paint.
  • Wade has to be better than Russell. D-Wade came out strong in Game 2 and he had a more productive game than Westbrook. He has to constantly attack for the whole game and not just one half. LeBron and Durant will cancel each other out often so it's up to Wade to outplay and outsmart RW so that the Heat can win
  • LeBron cannot settle for jumpers. LBJ was aggressive in the post during Game 2 where he was 9-16 on post plays. His jumper has not been working in the finals so he cannot help the Thunder defense by taking poor jumpers. James has to operate in the block more where he can pick up fouls and force the Thunder defense to double team him to open up shots for others.
  • Run with the Thunder. In Game 1, the Thunder had a 20-point margin on fast break points. In Game 2, the margin was a point. The Heat should try to either run with the Thunder which they are capable of or limit them from running in transition. Here's where good shot selections and less turnovers are very crucial for Miami to limit the running options of the Thunder

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