Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
A lot of people picked the Thunder in this thing. What has gone wrong for them in these Finals? What has gone MOST wrong?
Steve Aschburner: The Thunder weren’t ready for this stage, this spotlight and obviously this Heat team. That step from the conference finals, where OKC stopped in 2011, to The Finals is approximately the same size as the cliffs Wile E. Coyote navigates so poorly chasing that bird – you almost could see Kevin Durant, Scott Brooks and the rest of the Thunder staring into the camera and holding up a “Yikes!” sign. It’s an experience thing – Miami has it, Oklahoma City had to acquire it – so the best thing about this series for the Thunder is that they’ll never have to go through their first Finals again.
Fran Blinebury: They’ve only played their game in spurts, sometimes late, sometimes early, but not the full 48 minutes it takes at this level. Their transition defense has often been lazy and appalling.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Why are you looking at James Harden when you ask that question? At the time Miami got its third-best player closer to full strength, with Chris Bosh continuing to work back from injury, Oklahoma City lost too much of the impact from its third-best player. The Thunder’s advantage in depth takes a hit right there.
Shaun Powell: OKC hasn’t been outplayed, just outsmarted. And, a few possessions just didn’t fall in their favor. Otherwise they might be up 3-1. The biggest problem, obviously, is James Harden’s inability to get buckets. Nobody saw this coming after the way he tore through the first three rounds.
John Schuhmann: Ahem. Let’s make sure we point out that one of us didn’t pick the Thunder. It seems like they just aren’t ready for this. They’ve made too many mistakes – dumb fouls, careless turnovers, bad shots – over the last few games. Both teams have had the opportunity to win every game so far, but the Heat have had better fourth-quarter execution than OKC. The Heat have also done a better job of affecting Kevin Durant’s touches (via ball denial and physical play) than the Thunder have done with LeBron.
Sekou Smith: I was one of those people. I picked the Thunder in 7. What’s gone wrong for them in The Finals is a combination of James playing like the desperate behemoth that he is and the Thunder’s inexperience on this big stage conspiring to derail their championship plans (and my prediction). The most troubling sign of all, though, has been the struggles James Harden has endured throughout this series. I would argue that the Heat wouldn’t be in the position they are in today if Chris Bosh was coming up empty the way Harden has in this series. He’s an easy target, since he’s the one star player from either team that has failed to play up to his usual standard in this series.