NBA Finals: Shane Battier's shooting touch baffles Thunder

Miami's top defender has shined on the offensive end as well so far in the series.
By John Rohde Published: June 15, 2012
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Battier is shooting 70.6 percent from the field (12 for 17) in the Finals, going 4 for 6 and 5 for 7 from 3-point range. He is shooting considerably better behind the 3-point line than he did at the free-throw line this season (62.2 percent).

OKC's defensive approach has been to keep one eye on Battier, but both eyes on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It would be foolish to do otherwise.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks said his defenders must close out quicker and harder while returning to Battier on defense, but the Heat's spacing has been outstanding and has given Battier and other outside shooters open looks.

The Heat's Big 3 of James, Wade and Chris Bosh have each had superb moments, but the most crippling damage has come from a defensive-minded 12-year veteran posting career offensive numbers in his first Finals.

“Teammates did a nice job of finding me,” Battier said after Game 2. “I owe a lot of that to LeBron, the way he demands so much attention. As the fourth or fifth option, you just don't get a lot of attention (defensively). So to be successful, we need to be able to take advantage of it.”

If Thunder players defend Battier more tightly, it'll open up driving lanes for James and Wade, which would be disastrous. Better to give up a potential 3-pointer than a surefire dunk.

“On paper, that's how we drew it up,” Battier said of his open looks. “Every game, our shooters making shots opens up lanes for everybody else.”

Eleven of Battier's 12 field goals in the series have come off assists — five from point guard Mario Chalmers (mostly on swing passes), plus four from a penetrating Wade and two from James.

Adding to the sting was Battier opting to sign with the Heat, the only team to offer him a three-year deal.

“Shane has been huge,” James said. “He's a big part of why we're here today and competing for a championship. He's meant a lot for our team, he's meant a lot to me, being able to guard guys as well as the top scorers.”

Battier's ungodly shooting percentages against the Thunder figure to return to earth sometime, but will it be too late? It's a best-of-7 series, and OKC's defensive clock is ticking louder and louder.


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