Kevin Durant goes to the basket against Dwyane Wade, left, LeBron James, center, and Chris Bosh during the first quarter of Game 4 of the NBA Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder against Miami Heat at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tuesday, June 19, 2012.
Miami allowed 62.5 percent shooting to Oklahoma City in the first 12 minutes, but got enough stops in the final three quarters.
The Heat defense showed up on South Florida time for Tuesday’s NBA Finals Game 4.
But in the end, it got there right on time to reel in Oklahoma City and set the stage for the Heat’s 104-98 win and taking a 3-1 series lead into Thursday’s Game 5.
“The first quarter, we came out flat,” Heat guard James Jones said. “They came out being aggressive in transition. We came out shooting jumpers. Our long jumpers ignited their break. We knew we had to settle down and get it into a half court game.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said: “It wasn’t a matter of not wanting and not bringing it. Our guys were ready. We missed some chippies, missed some ones we normally make, and they came out with an incredible velocity to start that game, got us on our heels — speed, athleticism, extra possessions, loose balls. And so we had to really get our hands dirty from there.” D tough
Calling what the Heat played in the first quarter “defense” would be a reach. In fact, it was literally a lot of reaching — reaching at Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook all over the place, reaching at Nick Collison as he hit a jumper, reaching toward Kendrick Perkins on his put backs inside.
Everybody wearing white seemed in a competition to do the best imitation of a Central Park West doorman during afternoon rush hour as the Thunder blew past to the hoop. Allowing Oklahoma City to shoot 62.5 percent in the first quarter of an NBA Finals home game bordered on embarrassing, almost as much as the 33-19 scoreboard deficit.
And the Heat spent the second quarter playing defense as if to inflict the pain from the embarrassment on the Thunder. SEcond wind
Oklahoma City was 6 of 20 from the field in those 12 minutes for 16 points. Only Westbrook could act as kryptonite against the Heat’s steely defense, getting half of those 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting. His driving layup 3:45 into the quarter would be the first field goal the Heat allowed in the quarter.
Everybody else went 2 of 13. Kevin Durant and James Harden went 1 for 4 each.
And Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh came up with the kind of plays that inject electricity into the arena.
Wade deflected a pass to start a break he finished with a layup from James, getting the Heat within seven at 33-26. Later, Bosh outhustled Serge Ibaka for a rebound on the deck, got fouled by Ibaka as he was on the floor and rose to send screams and spittle toward a raucous AmericanAirlines Arena crowd that always responds to the intellectual Bosh getting emotional. The next Thunder possession, after a Bosh layup cut the deficit to 43-42, he drew a charge on Kevin Durant. ‘urgency’
“Our sense of urgency kicked in,” Jones said. “I think guys caught their second wind. We did a better job of protecting the paint and keeping a body in front. They’re a tough cover. Everywhere, they’ve got guys who can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. And Westbrook was really aggressive tonight. He gave us fits.”
By halftime, the Heat trailed only 49-46 and were within range to take their first lead since 2-0 17 seconds into the game.