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OKC Thunder: To beat the Miami Heat, you've got to out-tough them

The Miami Heat wins with suffocating defense and is uniquely built to combat Oklahoma City. To win, the Thunder must beat them at their own game.
by Berry Tramel Published: March 24, 2012

The Minnesota Timberwolves were in town Friday night, with Kevin Love dueling the Thunder's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The teams combined for 289 points.

Sunday night, the star power goes up. Way up. The Miami Heat comes to Oklahoma City, maybe not for the last time this season.

But don't expect 289 points. Or even 232 regulation points.

The Heat wins with suffocating defense. The Thunder's only counter is the same, both in this regular-season showdown or in a potential NBA Finals.

Beat the Heat? You've got to beat Miami at its own game.

“They're a great defensive team,” said the newest Boomer, Derek Fisher. “It's going to be hard to score 114 points, 120 points, against a team like Miami.”

Worse yet for the Thunder, the Heat is uniquely built to combat OKC. You couldn't design a better defender than LeBron James to slow Durant. Strong, big, quick.

Plus Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers are excellent perimeter defenders. Most teams that play the Thunder just send the farm at Durant, Westbrook and James Harden and hope for the best. Miami matches up.

The Thunder has the NBA's most efficient offense — 1.062 points per possession, which is the most accurate method of rating offenses. Miami is No. 3, at 1.050.

But the Heat also ranks No. 3 in defensive efficiency, holding opponents to 0.964 points per possession. The Thunder is 12th, 0.998.

Scotty Brooks had a simple answer for how to beat the Heat: “By playing better defense.”

LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh are a scoring trio to match the Thunder musketeers.

“We know we have to do a better job guarding those three players,” Brooks said.

The Heat puts pressure on teams with its defense-to-offense transition. Miami gets quick baskets faster than any team maybe in NBA history. When fast players hustle and move the ball upcourt the way LeBron and Wade do, the scoring comes rapid-fire.

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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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