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Oklahoma City Thunder: Heat’s role players the difference

by Berry Tramel Published: June 22, 2012

In Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Mike Miller took eight 3-point shots. He made seven and finished with 23 points.

In Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Mario Chalmers scored 25 points. The Heat won by six and led by just three points, 99-96, when Chalmers scored Miami’s final five points.

In Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Shane Battier took seven 3-point shots. He made five and finished with 17 points. The Heat won 100-96.

Here’s why the NBA Finals are over, and the Thunder’s scintillating run to basketball’s grandest stage is over. The Heat’s role players produced huge performances that lifted Miami’s top-heavy roster. The Thunder’s role players did not match that kind of production.

In Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the Thunder lost to San Antonio, but it wasn’t Derek Fisher’s fault — Fish made six of eight shots and scored 13 points.

In Game 3 of the West finals, Thabo Sefolosha scored 19 points and made four 3-pointers. It was a season high and just his sixth double-digit scoring game of the year. The Thunder secured its first victory of the series.

In Game 4 of the West finals, Serge Ibaka made all 11 of his shots and scored a career high 26 points. The Thunder evened the series 2-2.

In Game 5 of the West finals, Daequan Cook scored eight points on three successive possessions in the second quarter, igniting the Thunder to a seven-point lead. OKC won at San Antonio and took control of the series.

That’s the kind of play the Thunder never got against Miami. The closest was Kendrick Perkins in Game 3, when Gran Torino had 10 points and 12 rebounds, and Nick Collison in Game 1 (the Thunder’s lone victory), when Collison had eight points and 10 rebounds.

The stars showed up, mostly. James Harden’s lack of production hurt the Thunder, which frankly gave Miami a 3-2 lead at the top of the rosters. But the role players were the other difference. The Heat got world-class performances from players you would least expect. The Thunder did not. That’s how championships are. The Thunder proved that in the West finals. The Heat proved it in the next round.


by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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