Here’s what I learned watching Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals: nothing. Well, let me walk that back a little. I learned that Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks’ mother doesn’t like to get on airplanes and therefore doesn’t catch many games. But she’s here tonight. That’s wonderful.
In regards to the game, however? Nada. I walked in the door with the same thing I walked out with. Notions of the game and how it would turn have been preconceived for a couple of days now, patiently waiting for confirmation. So here’s the checklist: Kevin Durant’s jump shot is ethereal, Lebron James is going to score at least 30 points, Russell Westbrook is going to snarl at someone and Jeff Van Gundy is going to say something glowing about the professionalism of Shane Battier. Checklist complete.
Oh, and there’s one more item that was checked off, the easiest one really and the key to this whole series. It’s unfortunate that when the OKC franchise bounced out of Seattle that they couldn’t take the Supersonics name with them. If so, there wouldn’t be a more aptly named team in all of sports. As if anyone needed a reminder, this team had speed busting out of pipes and overflowing into the streets.
Let’s start with Westbrook, who, on the play at the end of the first half, jetted into an impossibly small crease on the Miami perimeter and went by Udonis Haslem with the speed of a hummingbird feather-flutter. His speed looks motorized, like there should be engine sounds resonating from his sneakers. He has true killer-speed. That kind of ability will always keep you in the league, no matter what transgressions occur. A guy could be tooting powder and someone will still give speed like that second and third chances.
OKC’s team speed is the reason why they won Game 1. They had 24 fast break points and, in the second half, they just out-quicked the Heat and disrupted everything Miami wanted to do on both sides of the floor. The Heat offense tends to bog down at times regardless, but the Thunder made it worse. There were zero passing lanes in the fourth quarter, which forced the Heat into jumper (well the Heat settled for some, as well) after jumper.
The Thunder have so much speed that it doesn’t even matter when Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher are on the floor. They’re just absorbed right into their locomotion vortex without anyone even noticing. It wasn’t a fluke that Thunder forward Nick Collison kept tapping loose balls away from the Heat and towards Thunder players. That’s all day for Collison. His fast-twitch muscles are going to keep twitching and he’ll be a factor because there’s nobody who can consistently stay with him. He had 10 rebounds last night (five of them offensive) and his athleticism coming off the bench demands that he’ll have 10 boards again in this series.
With Durant, I knew he was extra serious when he came out with the fresh cut. When his edges are sharp like that, it’s basically a form of trash talk. His jumper was cotton per the usual, but he also blew past a few guys with a deceptive first step. It was probably Thabo Sefalosha who raised the most casual eyebrows last night, though. He had the whole Swiss Army Knife repertoire out in Game 1—steals, man-to-man defense on the perimeter, energy and enough points to keep his presence legit. He’s fast, too and speed doesn’t go into slumps – they are always going to have this advantage in the series. Surprising to say, but, last night, the Heat looked slow, at times. Somehow the Heat have to get faster because the Thunder certainly aren’t getting slower.