- Thunder 105, Heat 94 - Game 1 is in the books and OKC held serve at home. Kevin Durant led the way for the Zombies with 36 points and 8 boards while Russ Westbrook submitted 27 points, 11 assists, and 8 rebounds on the night. It was really a two-man show offensively for the Thunder, but they still managed to score at 118 points per 100 possessions (which is absurdly good), and did so without anything from James Harden (5 points). I thought Westbrook was pretty darn good all night, and Durant's efficiency is scary when he has it going from distance. On Miami's side, Lebron will likely get killed today because that's what people do, but he finished with 30 points and 9 boards including an average (but not bad) output of 7 points in the 4th quarter. I've already heard criticism of a 7-point 4th quarter as if spreading out 7 points per quarter doesn't equal 28 points (lol). I won't tell you that he was tremendous late, but he was far from awful. The guy in the cross-hairs for me would be Dwyane Wade, who shot 7 of 19 including what seemed like a million settling jump shots, and couldn't stay in front of various guys defensively. Chris Bosh didn't play particularly well either for Miami (4 of 11), and the only real bright spot on that end was Shane Battier's 17 point (on 9 shots!) explosion. A couple of things to watch going forward for me:
- Thabo Sefolosha was tremendous in Game 1, especially on the defensive end, and Scott Brooks stayed with him late into the 4th quarter to defend Lebron James. Will that be a trend? Harden will likely need to be more involved offensively on a night where both Durant and Westbrook aren't firing on all cylinders, and that's something to watch. Also, Kendrick Perkins is likely a liability in this series because of the fact that Miami has exactly zero guys up-front that play back-to-basket games, and I'd like to see Brooks play him even less in favor of smaller lineups and/or Nick Collison.
- Can Miami decide once and for all to run their offense through Lebron? There were a couple of stretches in the second half where it seemed like everything ran through Dwyane Wade, and I don't understand that. It would be one thing if Wade had it going, but he was bottled up and play after play went his way. Something to note.
- Miami's choice to basically bury Norris Cole and go sans point guard isn't a big deal to me, but it's being discussed as one. They've done this on numerous occasions all year and if there was ever a team that didn't need a ball-handling PG it's this team. I'd actually recommend they use Chalmers even less during times when Westbrook and Harden aren't out there, because Chalmers' only value is defensively in my opinion.
- The Braves lost a debilitating 6-4 decision to the Yankees last night. Jonny Venters entered the game with a 4-0 lead with 1 out in the 8th inning and Derek Jeter on first. He promptly surrendered a single to Curtis Granderson, a walk to Mark Teixeira, and a majestic grand-slam to Alex Rodriguez. Suddenly, the lead was gone at 4-4, and after Venters allowed another single to Robinson Cano, he exited stage left. Let's stop right here. Venters has struggled this year in comparison to last season, and while much of that can be attributed to an obscenely high BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and unluckiness, he also doesn't have the same dominant look as in 2011. That said, there's nothing that Fredi could have done about this implosion short of bringing in Kimbrel to face Rodriguez (the "right" move that the great majority of managers would never do in the 8th inning), and I won't blame him. After that, however, Fredi Gonzalez brought in Cory Gearrin to face Nick Swisher. Let's take a look at this move in context. Swisher is a switch-hitter and both pitchers that were warming up were right-handed thanks to the unavailability of Eric O'Flaherty (the only lefty in the pen). The other option was Cristhian Martinez who has actually been better against lefties than righties for his major-league career (.592 OPS vs. LHB, .897 OPS vs. RHB), but this was ignored in favor of Gearrin. This move may not seem quite as absurd until you take a look at Cory Gearrin's platoon split. In his (admittedly) limited time in the majors, Cory Gearrin has allowed a 1.230 OPS to left-handed batters. 1.230!! That's Babe Ruth and more. He's a right-handed specialist (.438 OPS allowed to righties) who's entire role is to face righties and induce ground balls. And he's inserted to face Nick Swisher who's batting left-handed!?! With another guy ready!?!? I have no words. That rant is over, but I will say that Mike Minor may have saved his job for a little while with a 7.1 IP, 1 ER performance (and he left the game with 0 ER) that was very impressive against that gauntlet of a lineup.