NBA@2: Miami’s Chemistry No Longer Issue
Last year, the Miami HEAT spent much of the season learning on the fly. After LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided to join forces during the offseason, the team spent much of the season learning how to play alongside each other and developing chemistry. Everyone on the roster had to play a different role than they were used to and the team didn’t dominate as expected.
Now, chemistry is no longer an issue for Miami. James and Wade have never looked better and seem to be on the same page at all times. Teammates such as Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony also seem more comfortable in their supporting roles.
“We have experience with each other now,” Anthony said. “That’s probably the biggest thing. We’ve had more time together. We had a whole year of playing together and we experienced a lot together after going through the playoffs and all the way to the Finals last year. We’ve been able to build chemistry and we know what do to do in certain situations to get wins.”
Last summer, many of the players stayed in Miami after the season to work out with one another.
“Some guys got together and worked out during the offseason and lockout,” Anthony said. “LeBron and D-Wade worked out together sometimes. I worked out with Juwan [Howard] and Chris [Bosh] sometimes. It depends where guys were. Everyone stayed focused though and, when we came together, it’s like we never left.”
Losing to the Dallas Mavericks during last year’s NBA Finals brought the team together and motivated them. Almost one year later, the HEAT still haven’t moved on.
“It’s something that’s always in the back of your mind, what happened last year,” Anthony said. “The biggest thing is making sure something like that doesn’t happen again. There’s a higher sense of urgency after going so far and not making it. This year, we know it’s even more important that we do the right things and make up for our shortcomings.”
Anything less than a championship for Miami will be considered a disappointment. When you assemble one of the most talented teams of all-time, winning titles is expected. When Bosh went down with an abdominal strain, the HEAT seemed like they were in trouble. They were missing a big piece of the puzzle and were down 2-1 to the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. However, James and Wade elevated their games and have been absolutely dominant. They have combined for 70 points, 58 points, 69 points, 54 points and 57 points in the five games since.
“Those guys are such great players and when they’re playing at such a high level like that, it’s hugely beneficial to us,” Anthony said. “When they play big like that, it gets everyone going. Everyone has to make sure they do their job. Those guys are going to be in position to make incredible plays and play big, but the other guys on the team have to step up and be able play their supporting role. That’s really what we need for the team to work. Those guys are our leaders and their play has showed that. Now, everyone else has to follow suit.”
Now, up 2-0 over the Boston Celtics, the HEAT are just two wins away from returning to the Finals. While Miami is feeling confident, Anthony insists that they are staying focused.
“We have to stay confident, but we’re also very realistic in terms of what we have to do,” Anthony said. “We’re taking this one game at a time. You have to respect the game. We are confident in our ability and we’re looking forward to battling out in this series.”
The HEAT managed to advance to the NBA Finals and win two games less than one year after being assembled. Now, with lack of chemistry no longer an excuse, Miami is expected to take the next step and hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Sefolosha Leads Thunder to Victory: The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the San Antonio Spurs by 20 points in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, handing the Spurs their first defeat in 50 days. Oklahoma City managed to win despite less-than-stellar performances from Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
That’s because Thabo Sefolosha had one of the best games of his career, finishing with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 6 steals.
“I think it was just one of those games,” Sefolosha said. “We came to play, the whole team, and it worked out for us. My teammates did a great job finding me and I was reading them. I think I played pretty well defensively and that got me going offensively as well.”
Not only did Sefolosha fill the stat sheet, he held Tony Parker in check. Thunder head coach Scott Brooks decided to put Sefolosha on Parker and the switch paid off: Parker had just 16 point and 4 assists while committing 5 turnovers.
“That was Scott’s idea, but I think the whole time we were thinking about it,” Sefolosha said. “We made the adjustment tonight and it worked out good. I think my length bothered him. Again, I rely on my teammates a lot and they did a great job of helping me. We switched some of the pick and roll and I think that helped us.”
“Thabo did a great job on the ball with Tony Parker, using his length,” Harden said. “It was a great defensive team effort tonight and we have to bring the same thing to Game 4.”
Inside Game 3: Here are some interesting Thunder-Spurs stats from the Elias Sports Bureau.
• The Thunder won by 20 points despite uninspiring shooting performances from their “Big Three.” Kevin Durant shot 8 for 17 from the field, Russell Westbrook was 5 for 15 and James Harden went 5 for 10. Oklahoma City had been 4-8 all-time in playoff games in which all three stars played and none shot higher than 50 percent, according to Elias. And only once had they won such a playoff game by more than 10 points: a 27-point second-round win over the Grizzlies in 2011.
• Thabo Sefolosha recorded six steals for the Thunder in their 102-82 win over the Spurs. That’s the highest playoff steal total for the franchise since Gary Payton had six for Seattle against Utah on May 3, 2000, according to Elias. It was the most steals by any player in a postseason game against San Antonio since Dirk Nowitzki had six on May 14, 2001.
• Of all the nay-saying in sports, we’ve often thought that top honors go to teams that trail, two games to none, in a postseason series. “It’s all over.” “They don’t belong on the same court (field, ice).” “Call the series off right now.” And so forth. And yet – if the team trailing two games to none just wins the next game – well, the series, at two games to one, is as close as a series can be after three games. The Thunder taught that lesson anew by pinning the first loss of these playoffs on the Spurs, 102-82, on Thursday night. However, none of the last six NBA teams with a win like that – by 20-or-more points in Game Three when trailing in the series, two games to none – went on to win the series, according to Elias. The last team that won a playoff series after being in a two-games-to-none hole and winning Game Three by a 20-point margin? The Lakers, in a 2004 Western Conference Semifinals series, when they used a 105-81 victory in Game Three as a springboard to win four in a row – over Gregg Popovich’s Spurs.