NBA Finals: Time for the Thunder to go small

Berry Tramel: Miami's shooter-heavy lineup causes matchup problems for the Thunder. Going small will help counter that.
by Berry Tramel Published: June 15, 2012

But the Heat causes matchup problems. Starting Chris Bosh and Shane Battier with Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, Miami has five shooters on the court. So Perkins is asked to chase around Bosh, and Ibaka is asked to contend Battier's 24-foot line drives. That takes both away from the lane and the basket, negating their value.

“That's one of our advantages,” Bosh said. “Shane plays big, but he's a deadly outside shooter. That's what he's been doing for years. As long as we play defense well and get stops, we're going to be just fine.”

I'm not advocating a starting lineup change. The Thunder never does that, so there would be chemistry issues. I get it. Start the same five guys. But get Harden in the game earlier. Don't wait until the score is 16-2. Insert Harden three or four minutes into the game and put some pressure on the Miami defense.

With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Harden on the court, Miami's defense will be strained. Through three quarters of Game 2, the Thunder's big three played just 10:14 together. Some of that was foul trouble, but some of that was rotation decisions.

And Nick Collison must play more. For whatever reason, his energy has produced against Miami. With Ibaka as its lone big on the court in this series, the Thunder has been outscored 34-33. With Perk as its lone big, the Thunder is down 24-23. With Collison as its lone big on the floor, the Thunder has outscored Miami 64-43.

Brooks' tinkering helped sway the San Antonio series. He moved Thabo Sefolosha onto Tony Parker, and a four-game win streak ensued.

Time to tinker again. Brooks long has ended games with his small lineup — Durant, Westbrook, Harden and either Thabo Sefolosha or Derek Fisher along with one big guy.

The Thunder actually has used the small lineup a lot — 56.4 percent of the time in this series, almost exclusively in the fourth quarters. But that's not enough.

Time for the Thunder to go small. Early and often.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
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...
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