Debating William & Mary, sports and culture since 2011. Updated every Wednesday.

NBA Finals Game 1 Diary

In Basketball on June 13, 2012 at 6:16 pm

We made CDH’s Sam Sutton sit through Game 1 of the NBA Finals and record his observations in real time as the Miami Heat took on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Pre-game

Miami was introduced to the “Imperial March” from Star Wars, which is pretty lame. Shouldn’t the Evil Empire have an empire before it’s given that kind of treatment? No music would have been more insulting. Could you imagine the ego-check Wade would take walking out to silence? The man thrives on hate.

Kevin Durant is receiving the loudest applause (no surprise) as a choice cut from Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Watch The Throne” plays over the loudspeakers. It’s a fitting pick — Durant and Westbrook have a Jay-Z/Kanye dynamic that makes their team both volatile and very fun to watch. This makes me wish I’d written a “The Thunder and their GOOD Music/Roc-a-Fella equivalents” column:

■         KD = Jay-Z

■         Westbrook = Kanye

■         Thabo = probably Kid Cudi/Pusha T

■         Kendrick Perkins = Freeway

■         Ibaka = Beanie Sigel

■         Derek Fisher = Dame Dash

■         Nick Collison = Was Asher Roth ever signed to Roc?

11:40: Missed Westbrook jumper, missed LeBron Jumper, missed Westbrook layup in transition, Battier three-pointer from left wing. This has the makings of a boring game if e’erybody’s gonna be settling all night.

10:00: Sefolosha on Wade is an awesome match-up for the Thunder, particularly if Wade’s playing hurt (and he is).

Also, LeBron has two missed jumpers, not particularly difficult ones either, in the first two minutes. He forced another after backing Durant into the paint and drawing a foul. I’m guessing LeBron’s going to try to overpower KD as much as possible. But that would assume there’s a consistent logic dictating Miami’s offense.

9:30: Battier hits another three from the same location. Talk about a momentum-buster, this is not the kind of start Oklahoma City wants. Especially when it allows Haslem to force a jump ball in the ensuing possession.

9:00: OKC is 1-6 FG/FGA in the first three and a half minutes. The main issue here is that Durant has taken only one shot and Westbrook has taken three. Guess which one is on the board? (Hint: It’s not the one who released an underrated auto-tune album.)

7:21: Durant makes his next shot, then follows with a dagger three pointer from the top of the arc to make him 3/3 FG so far.

LeBron responded in the next possession in the LeBron-iest  possible way, forcing up a one-hander off the glass from paint for two. James’s ability to adapt his game to the defense hasn’t been written about enough this ser… wait, we’re only five minutes in? Never mind.

6:29: Wade hits his first shot attempt with a pretty contested jumper. Thunder timeout.

Commercial break: Jeremy Renner is apparently the new-new Matt Damon in the Bourne reboot. Had no idea. Can’t wait to watch that movie on Starz! in two years.

6:13: Westbrook assist on a Perkins dunk. Brooks: “I need more of that, Russell.”

5:50: ANOTHER three from Battier on the left wing.

5:25: Now a Mario Chalmers three from the corner? 4-4 on threes for Miami so far, which translates into a 20-10 lead. They’re showing a replay and LeBron did an amazing job keeping Ibaka and Westbrook away from Chalmers, who looked dialed in. It was almost definitely an illegal screen but whatever. There’s no way a ref will make that call.

4:00: Fun stat: Miami is shooting 61 percent so far. Not shabby.

3:45: A great offensive board from Collison is wasted on a rushed-but-open three from James Harden. The Thunder guards look a little jumpy/inexperienced so far.

2:45: As soon as I type that, Harden hits Durant with a beautiful bounce pass in transition at the elbow. KD doesn’t hesitate on the drive, hits the layup, and is fouled for a chance at an and-one.

Commercial break: The screeching, siren-y Cawwww-aaaaaawww noise in the Prometheus commercial is what I imagine Kendrick Perkins hears in his dreams.

2:35: Durant hits the free throw. ESPN is reporting he is 4/6 on FGs so far.

2:20: Chalmers hits another three. If Miami continues to hit its three-point shots, the Thunder is going to have a tough time keeping this a close game. Westbrook is struggling with his shot and playmaking abilities right now, and I don’t think relying on Sefolosha or Fisher to go crazy from beyond the arc is a good strategy.

1:50: Great possession for Oklahoma. Fisher dishes to Harden from the top of the arc. Harden does an up-and-under at the rim and misses. Collison cleans it up for two. Harden hits that more often than not, but I’m more impressed by Collison’s ability to pick up the pieces against Miami’s defense.

1:10: Fisher hits a three that will guarantee his old ass another contract next year.

0:10: Miami botches the second to last possession of the quarter, settling for a Bosh jumper off the left elbow. Bosh’s confidence in his jump shot is certainly reassuring for Miami fans, but the whole Garnett 2.0 thing he’s going for doesn’t really work quite yet (Shut up, everyone knows he went 3-4 on threes in Game 7 against the Celtics).

0:00.1: James Harden does his thing from the top of the arc. That’s great for OKC’s momentum going into the second quarter

SCORE: 29-22 Miami

Second Quarter:

11:20: James Harden just put some serious old man anguish on Shane Battier. His spin move sent Battier to the floor. That matchup will not be fair.

11:00 – Sure enough, after a Miami possession where James blows by Fisher for an easy two, the Heat changes up its defensive screen, switching from Battier to James on Harden.

10:15: Battier just hits a deep two, making it 11 points for the learned man from Duke. I want to hate him, but I love his whole Crash Davis act right now. Of course, I’m writing for a sports blog, so I naturally will love any player Michael Lewis profiled.

9:30: Wade misses another fade-away, heavily contested jump shot from the right side. He’s been off since the Pacers series, as everyone has pointed out. He’s still elevating really well, and he looked fairly explosive going to the rim. Probably his knee? Tough to put a finger on it.

9:15: LeBron just forced a steal on Durant near half-court, ran it down and threw up a THUNDERous dunk. See what I did there? Rick Reilly just texted me “L.O.L.”

9:00: Ibaka’s finally on the board and has a chance at an and-one! Nope, bricks the free throw.

8:20: Chalmers and Harden trade missed threes, Wade finally makes a great play on a pick-and-roll drive from the right side. He no-looks to Bosh, who drains a two from the elbow.

7:30: Holy Mother of God, Derek Fisher just went coast-to-coast. He avoided a shot block from Wade by SLOWING down. Know your strengths, old man. Know them well.

6:56: Derek Fisher hits a two from the nail! Who knew this game would be decided by the play of Battier and Fisher? Pardon me for speaking too soon, but the quiet strength of Durant and LeBron’s performances has  been overshadowed so far by bench players who can barely get up and down the court in transition.

6:20: James shuffle-stepped in the paint to beat a double team in transition. Amazing.

Westbrook tries to do something similar on the other end and commits an offensive foul. The universe is officially in order.

4:41: James Harden hits a three. Battier responds by driving through traffic and hitting a floater. The two of them must’ve engaged in some “Freaky Friday” shit. This makes no sense. What is Battier doing in traffic? Why is Harden only settling for deep shots? The match-ups for him aren’t great, but they’re not terrible either. Seriously, how is Battier in traffic?

3:08: Battier has 13 points. Chalmers has 10 points. The contributions from Miami’s supporting players are clearly the difference in the game right now. However, it should be noted that the Heat is being helped by Westbrook’s very questionable shot selection.

Not to point out the obvious, but Durant hasn’t taken a shot since the first quarter and is still 4-6 from the field. I wonder how the Thunder will adjust (fake suspense).

3:00: Okay, Durant is tired of this. He just went with long dunk after blowing past Joel Anthony and Chris Bosh’s forehead.

2:30: Oh good, a Bosh three.

1:08: Now a James three. He’s taken a couple deep shots today, has 13 points so far. Something tells me Scottie Brooks will be fine with that.

0:31.4: A definitive Westbrook possession. He misses a layup (might have lost control of the ball before the shot, not sure how it will be scored), gets his own rebound, pump fakes, and brings it home. Does the stupid gunslinger thing, gets in Battier’s way, smacks the ball out of Battier’s hands while the clock is dead. Double technical on Battier and Westbrook.

The man is nothing if not consistently inconsistent in his brilliance/stupidity.

James misses a three at the buzzer, and that’s the half.

47-54 Heat

At the half: Oklahoma City hit 56 percent of its shots in the first half but is still down by 7 points at home. The difference so far has been Miami’s three-point shot (6/10), Shane Battier (psycho) and Russell Westbrook’s inconsistency on offense.

THIRD QUARTER:

11:20: Durant elects to open his second half by hitting a wide-open three, cutting the lead to four. The crowd is going wild.

11:00 Wade misses a jumper, Sefolosha grabs a rebound and brings it back only to get fouled. Misses the first FT, hits the second. The Heat now leads by three.

10:26: LeBron hits a three, making Miami 7-11 from beyond the arc. Good for him, but it’s odd that James is settling for jump shots.

10:20: Westbrook shows signs of life. He drives it up the lane and lays in a gorgeous two in traffic.

8:40: Not sure how to describe the last few possessions. It’s been chaos: here are my notes — good luck.

Ton of loose balls, some inspired defensive play from Westbrook, who looks like he’s trying to set up plays but is not doing much off the screens being set by Ibaka and Perkins. Sefolosha has had the chance to score on two transition turnovers from the Heat (I think? The drugs are taking hold… my God, is that a bat?) but has missed. He’s back at the line.

He hits both, which cuts Miami’s lead to one point. 58-57 Heat. Miami calls a timeout.

7:20: Wade misses a wide-open two from the free throw line, grabs his own rebound and drops in a floater over Ibaka. It looks like he’s starting to acknowledge that he doesn’t have a jump shot tonight?

6:50: Nope, totally wrong. He just hesitated then took an open three for another miss.

6:40: Had to pause and rewind to watch this possession again. An excellent transition set from the Thunder. Durant takes it up to the left wing, where Perkins and Ibaka set up a double-screen on Haslem and James. Durant rolls left past the screens and drops it off to Sefolosha on the drive. Thabo follows that with an up and under.

6:30: LeBron hates seeing other people have fun. He just drove through traffic for a layup, which killed some of the crowd momentum the Thunder earned on the Sefolosha play.

5:50: He just did it again. LeBron’s not liking that this game has gotten close. His second lay-in, drawing contact from Durant, makes the score 64-60 Heat.

5:15: Westbrook just picked up his seventh assist with a dump to Perkins on the drive. Bosh, Wade and James left Perkins wide open on the left side, and that created a great passing lane for Westbrook.

4:40: Westbrook tries to drive through traffic again, but fails. Harden picks up his third foul in transition, just minutes after picking up one on the last possession.

3:40: Another missed jumper from Wade. He is shooting 4/12 on the night, Westbrook is 5/15. Ugly games from both. By contrast: James is 8/16 and Durant is 6/9

3:20: A pair of Westbrook FTs are punctuated by Battier’s fourth three-pointer on the following possession. That man is the goddamn Devil.

2:35: LeBron is going into Ryan Gosling-in-Drive mode, which is (admittedly) a bad play on words, but he’s given up on kicking it out to his teammates at this point. The heavily dissected dead-eyed stare that appeared in Game 6 of the Celtics series is making an appearance.

1:50: Westbrook’s Dr. Jekyll side is back! He blows past a Harden screen, moves around Miller effortlessly and left-hands a lay-up for two. The Heat lead is back down to three.

Miami picks up a shot-clock violation on the next possession.

1:04: A Durant free throw cuts the lead to two. The Thunder has a chance to tie on the next possessions but inexplicably allows Fisher to drive coast-to-coast, where he is stopped by two defenders.

0:16.4: Wow. Russell Westbrook is completely revived. A great screen from Collison sets the table for a Westbrook lay-up to tie the game. He makes, draws the foul, and sinks the free throw to give OKC its first lead of the night. Wade misses a jumper on the following possession, and the Thunder is going into the fourth quarter with the lead at home.

FOURTH QUARTER

74-73 Thunder

11:04: This possession embodies the Westbrook/Durant relationship in a nutshell. Westbrook leads the Thunder up the court on a transition drive, shoots from the right elbow and rims it out. Durant runs in to clean it up.

10:11 Sefolosha just scored some clutch second-chance points for the Thunder to knock its lead up to four. Collison came through with an awesome rebound, which he flipped out to Fisher at the arc. He immediately backed up to set a screen, which created a lane for Fisher to pass to Sefolosha for the bucket.

The best part about this possession was that neither of OKC’s two best players touched the ball after the missed shot. Even though their presence on the floor created the space for Collison’s rebound, the ability of the Thunder’s secondary players to score on a pair of heads-up plays was great basketball.

9:35 Bosh draws a foul from Collison on a drive. Bosh is quietly having a strong game, albeit maybe not statistically. But his jump shot is creating space for Miami. He’s playing a lot near the top of the key, but struggling a little on the inside.

9:10: Durant spins, head fakes Wade, and quick-releases a two from off the post. He gets his 22nd and 23rd points and puts the Thunder lead at 6.

8:54: Wade draws another foul off Collison and drills the and-one. Again, the elevation is there. His jock was in Collison’s face, and Collison was not even remotely happy about it.

8:29: LeBron drives, tries to hand it off to Bosh, who fumbles. Durant takes it all the way back for a slam. Five-point Thunder lead.

7:30: Multiple pick-and-rolls create a Spursian possession for the Heat, which narrows the lead to three. Trying to follow the ball on that possession was damn near impossible. Really, the Heat played the perimeter game very effectively. It’s a wonder this hasn’t been used more often, because the Thunder was as confused as I was.

6:53: LeBron hits an impossible shot on a spin move away from the baseline. Hits the two, misses the FT.

Trying to describe a James drive is a complete waste of time. Just know it looked pretty cool and almost no one else in the league would’ve made that play. Not to ho-hum it, but if you seen him play you know exactly what this looks like.

6:35: Collison’s rebound creates another second-chance point opportunity for the Thunder, which capitalizes with a Durant three from the right side.

The Thunder crowd loves this type of possession. It’s a hustle play rewarded with a gasp-worthy three. Couple that with the fact that this will help seal a come-from-behind victory, and now you’ve checked off all the things that get Midwesterners with inferiority complexes excited.

5:40: Durant just cut through what I think was three defenders for another two. Incredibly graceful move. That’s a really weird compliment to give another man, but I stand by it. It was very smooth. Oh God, that made it weirder.

4:42: Unbelievable. The Thunder emerges from the time out and scores immediately with another Durant three. KD now has 14 points in the fourth quarter, compared to James’s 2 points. This has the makings of a LeBron choke job.

Somewhere, Skip Bayless is smiling. Somewhere else, Stephen A. Smith is frowning. In both places, children are crying.

4:20 LeBron followed this possession by missing a three. That sound you hear is the people of Miami sighing, collecting their keys, turning off their TVs and leaving their apartments for a night out that puts your Saturday to shame. SHAME.

3:31: The Heat has missed on its last several possessions (maybe two? It feels like more), and the Thunder capitalizes when Westbrook hits a two from the elbow. The Thunder now has a 10-point lead with less than five minutes to play.

I’ve paused my television on a shot of Pat Riley looking angrily at the clock. The level of disappointment this man must feel is offset only by the amount of bling his watch is shooting into the camera lens. It looks like an old, white Master P video. Stunning piece, really.

3:21: Finally, someone stops the bleeding. Wade hits a quick two. LeBron was off the arc though… uh oh.

2:44: LeBron hits his first free throw from the line. He is 1-5 in the fourth quarter. Yeesh… okay, he hit the second.

2:20: LeBron’s letting Wade take over. D-Wade drove up the left side for a pull-up two, while James sat on the wing.

1:38: Same thing on the following possession. Bosh sets a pick for Wade, who drives and kicks to James. LeBron then scores two on a drive and draws a foul. Hits the and-one. Bosh had a great pick there. And now I understand what James was doing on the wing — I missed the Bosh pick on the last possession.

Van Gundy loved both possessions, by the way.

1:15: The Heat can’t get a stop. Bosh misses a three, and that’s probably going to be the ball game. The Thunder is up by 7, and he’s dribbling away the clock near half-court.

0:53.4: Battier fouls Durant. That’s Miami’s last foul to give.

0:00: Yeah, not even going to bother describing the fouls in the final minute. Waste of time.

The Thunder wins 104-93.

Durant and Westbrook had excellent fourth quarters, and that was ultimately the difference in the game. It did not look good for OKC at the half, but Miami’s reliance on Battier and role players ultimately cost it the game. Bosh, Battier and Chalmers played great games if you look at the basic statistics, but I’d encourage you to look at the point differentials of Miami’s starting five versus OKC’s starting five.

The only member of the Heat to finish with a positive +/- stat was Joel Anthony, who played 2 minutes. Durant, Sefolosha, Westbrook and Collison all finished with differentials over +10.

Dominant fourth quarter from the Thunder. Anyone surprised?

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