Five Players With Room To Improve

MIAMI — We all know who’s playing at peak level in these NBA Finals, a list that starts with LeBron James followed closely by Kevin Durant, despite missing that Game 2 shot and the foul trouble.

But who needs to shift to a higher gear? Well, the complexion of the series can change, even drastically,if one or more of the following raise their game:

1. James Harden. Clearly and correctly, stopping Harden has been a priority for the Heat, and they’ve done so in two of the three games. Make that 2 1/2 games, because Harden didn’t do much damage in Game 2 after the first half. And the only question now is who’s to blame for turning the Sixth Man of the Year invisible. Is it coach Scott Brooks? Shane Battier? Erik Spoelstra? Or Harden?

“It isn’t any defense that I haven’t seen before,” said Harden. Maybe his issues are due to Brooks being slow to insert Harden into the flow? Or maybe, the guy just isn’t getting it done so far.

2. Mario Chalmers. At different points in the three games, Chalmers got chewed out by Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Which means, things are normal for Chalmers, who’s easy to bully because of his nutty decisions. Besides that, he’s just plain bricking it right now. Chalmers gets plenty of open looks playing alongside the Big Three and is Miami’s best percentage 3-point shooter. But this is easily his worst stretch of the postseason: 2 of 15 shooting in his last two games with four turnovers and four assists.

That said, Chalmers is also the one role player who can score 20 points and take the big shot. And since the only other option at the point is Norris Cole, well, it’s Chalmers by default.

3. Kendrick Perkins. Without another big body to lean against, Perkins appears to be a bad fit for OKC in this series, even though he’s coming off a 12-rebound Game 3. At times OKC is more fluid with Nick Collison on the floor. When Perkins plays, he also gives Miami a chance to put James on him, essentially giving James a rest since Perkins isn’t a scoring threat.

4. Serge Ibaka. He called out James and questioned the defensive abilities of the All-Defensive First Team member, but has Ibaka lived up to his reputation? You could argue Ibaka’s shooting from the elbow has been more helpful than his interior defense, especially his help defense on James, who has lived in the paint. The next time Ibaka makes a big stop in this series will be the first.

5. Russell Westbrook. Felt almost guilty putting Russ on this list, because he hasn’t been as poor as Magic Johnson and others have said. Westbrook is simply being himself, a viciously talented scorer who needs shots and who doesn’t make teammates better. Still, being benched by Brooks, whether that was the right move or not in Game 3, was quite an indictment against him. How often does a coach pull that kind of move in a championship setting?


  1. steve316 says:

    going back to one hang time blog about the best Thunder perimeter defender.. again my question…who is Sefolosha??

  2. john says:

    Lebron’ s the best player of the game man! no question how well he played the game. all stats that even kobe, durant, jordan can ever play. hes shot blocking style with his height is incredible! u know… hes the best ever! fpr the haters? Get a life. Talk and nextime? say something of u can play btr than this guy. lols!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. JORDAN says:

    I love Jimmy and his game it’s got a confident rhythm to it . . . But Westbrook needs some guidance out there, I don’t believe hitting him with the bench will help but something else in place. Cause he can score there is no doubt but sometimes we need a deep point guard not another scorer. . . But I think as a team we have done amazing . . Well done guys

  4. joHEAT says:

    Mario chalmers… should sink those wide open treys….

  5. Sin says:

    Chalmers is Miami’s best best percentage 3-point shooter? What world are you living in Mr. Powell?

    In the regular season he shot 0.388% to mike miller’s team leading 0.453% and in the post season he is shooting 0.354%, 4th best in the team, behind miller’s 0.364%, Battier’s 0.384% and Bosh’s 0.500% (!).

    You’re my favorite writer, but you are way off base on this one.

  6. Jim Cooney says:

    You mean the next 2 games

  7. LBJ Rocks says:

    Well, lets just say that we all hope a great game today and we’ll see it from ther after the tip off.Onwards to the FInals last 4 games….good luck!

  8. Khan says:

    poor kid its just the way the game goes unfortuanetly it’s looking like the Heat’s year.

  9. Samuel says:

    Nice article, although I have to say, Ibaka’s has had blocks on all of the big three, they’re hard to intimidate I guess, although I can see where you’re coming from on it not happening at really key moments though.

  10. LOLakers says:

    Heat in 5! This is the easiest series we’ve had all year! The Blunder are garbage and the crybaby Blunder players will cry for their bottle while Lebron dominates them!!!

  11. KOBE says:

    Harden..enough said..where is the baller from LA ..PUT HIS FACE ON A MILK CARTON..HE IS MISSING IN THE FINALS

  12. Em Genty says:

    AS the saying goes, the remaining 4 games of the NBA Finals will “separate the Men from the Boys”.

  13. Brian says:

    Westbrook deserved to be benched during the last game. He’s a great player, but you can’t justify him repeatedly coming down on 4-5 consecutive plays and taking a jumper or driving to the basket, with it often resulting in a rebound and fast break for the Heat. OKC has the best scorer in the league, he’s not even getting the ball on half of the plays, but it’s more due to Westbrook hogging the ball than the Heat’s defense denying him the ball. Westbrook needs to be warned that Durant has to touch the ball on at least every other offensive play (barring fast breaks), or he’s coming to the bench.

  14. This is when legends separate themselves from allstars..every player on both squads needs to be producing at their highest level, and its up to the coaches to get a game plan together that’s going to utilize their best weapons..whos hungrier for a championship: