Thunder-Heat: Breaking down the matchups between the Miami Heat and OKC Thunder
John Rohde takes a look at the matchups between the world champion Miami Heat and runner-up Oklahoma City Thunder.
Thunder beat writer John Rohde breaks down the matchups between the world champion Miami Heat and runner-up OKC Thunder:
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Mario Chalmers vs. Russell Westbrook
Analysis: This has not been the mismatch you'd expect it to be. Chalmers has more than held his own against the Thunder, making clutch shots and big passes at key moments. In this season's previous meeting on Christmas Day, Chalmers had 20 points and went 4 for 8 from 3-point range. Meanwhile, Westbrook shot 5 for 19 from the field (including 0 for 4 in the fourth quarter) and went 1 for 4 from 3-point range. He finished with 21 points thanks to going 10 for 12 from the free-throw line. Westbrook did have 11 rebounds (six offensive), but also committed five turnovers. If the Thunder is to end its five-game losing streak against Miami that dates back to last year's Finals, Westbrook must separate himself at this position.
Dwyane Wade vs. Thabo Sefolosha
Analysis: Wade was battling a bad knee during last year's Finals, but still stepped up big when needed. Wade had 21 points on Christmas, which included 11 in the fourth quarter. This season, Wade is shooting a career-best 50.7 percent, but just 28.3 percent from 3-point range and 75.1 percent on free throws, so he's not nearly so lethal behind the lines. Sefolosha has sizzled offensive as of late, posting back-to-back season highs in points with 18 and 20 against Phoenix. Sefolosha also is shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from 3-point range. If Sefolosha can continue with his stellar play offensively, the gap at this position against the Heat will narrow significantly. DeAndre Liggins can also help out defending Wade.
LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant
Analysis: There's only one opponent where Durant isn't the overwhelming pick here, and it's when he faces James. Durant occasionally will attempt to defend James, although a majority of that chore figures to go to Sefolosha with occasional tag-team help from Serge Ibaka (inside) and Kendrick Perkins (outside). James will defend Durant, and will be as physical as possible while doing so. Otherwise, Shane Battier will be assigned to Durant. James wore out the Thunder every way imaginable in last year's Finals, averaging 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists while also converting 82.6 percent of his free throws. It'll be interesting to see how well Durant's improved all-around game holds up against the league's best player.
Udonis Haslem vs. Serge Ibaka
Analysis: A wild-card position for the Heat, which will start Haslem here, Battier or possibly move Chris Bosh to this spot and bump Haslem to center. For the Thunder, the exact positions don't matter because Ibaka will defend Haslem wherever he roams, while Perkins and Nick Collison will alternate defending Bosh. Truthfully, it doesn't matter who starts for either team, it's who finishes. In this season's previous meeting, Haslem played just 16 minutes while Battier played 23½ minutes and reserve center Joel Anthony played 12½. Ibaka frequently defended James in the last meeting when OKC went small, and Ibaka struggled mightily — then again, who doesn't against James? Ibaka's defense is a must for the Thunder to succeed.
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