Miami's most used lineup this season, according to 82games.com, includes Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Shane Battier, James and Chris Bosh. That unit is the Heat's most successful and also is the same one that shredded the Thunder last season — when Ibaka was sucked away from the basket and out to the 3-point line to defend Battier.
Little has changed since June, as the Heat on Tuesday provided far too many flashbacks to that forgettable experiment. At one point in the second half, Ibaka or Perkins was covering James at the top of the arc on three straight possessions. On the game's most critical possession, with 44 seconds remaining, Ibaka inexplicably was on Chalmers, the Heat's point guard, while Perkins was assigned to Bosh and defensive ace Thabo Sefolosha was on the bench.
“To be honest, we like guarding smalls,” Perkins said of himself and Ibaka. “We like switching out on smalls. We work on it every day in practice. And I thought, as far as myself and Serge, we did a great job of just keeping them out of the paint. They hit some contested 2s over our hand. They were some bombers. But at the end of the day I feel like we had pretty good switch-outs and we did a pretty good job.”
The record shows the Thunder's defense can't afford to be just so-so against the Heat.
Over the past eight games against Miami, six of which the Thunder has lost, OKC has allowed the Heat to shoot 45.3 percent. Despite their best efforts, Perkins and Ibaka have been exploited when sharing the court against Miami. Meanwhile, neither has consistently been able to make Miami pay with their offense.
Perkins is a combined minus-29 in the plus-minus category in the past eight games against the Heat. Ibaka is a combined minus-32 in those same eight games. That means the Heat have outscored the Thunder by 29 and 32 points, respectively, in Ibaka and Perkins' time on the court.
Over the five-game skid against Miami, those numbers swell to minus-31 for Perkins and minus-48 for Ibaka.
The second and final round of the regular season Finals rematch is Valentine's Day.
We'll see then whether the Thunder adjusts or continues to accept its current stagnant status quo.