After losing in Game 1 loss, the Miami Heat will attempt to tie the series up tonight before heading home. The Heat know winning in OKC is very tough, but winning Game 2 will take homecourt back for them. Winning Game 1 is important as 65% of those who do, go onto win the series, but last year the Heat won Game 1 against Dallas, and we know how that ended. Given this, here are a few adjustments each team can make going into Game 2.
Miami needs to expand the rotation:
The Heat aren’t a deep team by any means, but Spoelstra’s decision to play only six players over ten minutes, while the Thunder played eight last game was not conducive to helping his stars out. With only two days between Game 7 against the Celtics and Game 1, both James and Wade were likely extremely fatigued, and this was evident as the Thunder players routinely drove by them.
James stated after Game 1, “We’re going to have to have more guys in there to give me and D-Wade a rest,” and he’s right. James has been averaging 46 minutes a game since the Celtic’s series. Last season, the Mavericks players felt James looked exhausted, and the same thing is happening this year. The best chance the Heat have is to expand the rotation and allow both James and Wade to at least rest for a few minutes.
James Jones will be available for Game 2, and Spoelstra could utilize Joel Anthony or Ronnie Turiaf for some defensive minutes much how Scott Brooks used Nick Collison in Game 1. No matter who he uses though, the Heat need to diversify their minutes.
Get James Harden involved
Despite the Thunder winning Game 1, basketball is a game of adjustments, win or lose. After James Harden picked up four quick fouls, head coach Scott Brooks elected to run out a defensive lineup, keeping both Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison on the court for the rest of the game. The move obviously worked, as Sefolosha was able to control the perimeter, while Collison provided excellent help defense around the basket.
While this strategy was so successful in Game 1, the Heat are likely to be more aggressive in Game 2 on drives to the basket. Having Harden on the court with his proficient outside shooting, not only opens up the Heat defense, but will allow Sefolosha to get some rest. Also, despite Durant looking inhuman on offense, Harden provides another outlet for the Thunder offense and relieves some of the burden on Durant.
The Heat need to be more aggressive
The Heat attempted only 18 free throws in Game 1, nine of which were from James. The last time they attempted less than 20 free throws was in the Game 3 loss to the Indiana Pacers. In this season’s playoffs, the Heat currently average 2.1 more free throws per game than their opponent, and 27.3 free throw attempts per game (only Memphis averaged more). Look for the Heat to get back to driving the ball more, and put pressure on the OKC defense because if they don’t, they’ll like find themselves down 2-0.
In Game 1, the Thunder shot 26-36 (72%) with 14 assisted on shots “at the rim,” whereas the Heat only shot 13-22 FG (59%) with only 4 assisted. The Heat are hurting themselves by relying heavily on outside shots, and while they were on fire from three early in the game, it was obviously unsustainable. Beyond James, both Wade and especially Bosh, who attempted 11 shots, all of which came from outside the paint, need to work on taking better shots and driving the ball.
The Heat scored 44% of their points in Game 1 on isolation and spot-up plays (shooting 17/39) compared to only 31% for the Thunder (shooting 10/27). Where the Thunder were so successful were on screens, cuts, and in transition, shooting a combined 19/30, while the Heat attempted only 13 of these plays, making 8. The Heat need improve their ball movement and find a way to run some offensive sets, rather than relying on jumpers.
Insert Chris Bosh back into the starting lineup
Bosh was unable to get involved in Game 1, struggling to find any rhythm despite playing 34 minutes. Inserting him back into the starting lineup would not only help the Heat offense, but enable Bosh to establish some flow within the game. He’s always been a starter, and Spoelstra has played him starter’s minutes, so his injury does not seem to be holding him back.
The Heat are 9-0 this season when Bosh makes at least ten baskets. Getting him to this point will take some of the burden off James as well as open things up for the offense. Starting Bosh will also allow Udonis Haslem to come off the bench, providing the Heat with some energy and rebounding.
Use James to guard Durant
This might be the most difficult adjustment to make as relying on James to run the offense, have him guard Durant, and manage his minutes is no easy task. In Game 1, when guarded by James, Durant scored 2 points on 0/2 shooting, while guarded by anyone else he scored 34 points on 12/18 shooting.
Going even further, in the three matchup’s this season, Durant has committed ten turnovers, all of which came while guarded by James. Durant is obviously extremely difficult to guard, and a lot of what James is able to do revolves around denying him the ball. This is generally the best means of slowing down Durant, but it also requires a lot of energy to sustain. If Spoelstra is able to manage James minutes, using him on Durant will be their best means of hindering his offense.