Five adjustments the Heat should make

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:34 AM ET

OKLAHOMA CITY - Things looked rosy for the Miami Heat after 12 minutes in Tuesday night’s opener. The Heat nailed five of six three-point attempts in the first quarter and had nine assists on 11 made baskets against just a single turnover to take a 29-22 lead over the jittery Thunder. But it all went downhill from there and now, Erik Spoelstra’s group must make changes to get back into the series.

1. TAKE IT TO THE RACK

How does a team with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – three of the NBA’s best at getting to the hoop and/or getting fouled – get outscored in the paint 56-40 while shooting only 18 free throws compared to Oklahoma City’s 27? Yes, Wade is hobbled by a knee injury and Bosh is still finding his post-injury form while masquerading as a three-point shooter, but those numbers can’t repeat themselves.Despite hitting 8-of-19 from deep in Game 1 (including 5-of-6 in the first quarter), Miami is not a three-point shooting team. Know who you are. “Our focus will be on playing more to our identity (Thursday) night,” Spoelstra said on Wednesday.” They imposed their identity more than we did in that game.”

2. DON'T LET THEM RUN

Even though the Heat turned the ball over only 10 times – usually enough to win a ball game – Oklahoma City was still able to do damage in the open court. Miami must improve its offensive rebounding, or else we might see the Thunder outscore the Heat on the fast break by a 24-4 margin again. “Normally, typically we’re used to having the advantage and fast break opportunities, and they dominated that area,” Spoelstra said. Putting more pressure on OKC’s attackers would benefit the Heat. “When we defend and we impose our will by being disruptive and aggressive, it opens up opportunities for us in the open court. And when we get our attackers in the open court, their confidence soars,” he said.

3. START CHRIS BOSH

This is pretty much just common sense. As Bosh said rather matter-of-factly: “I’m a pretty good player,” when asked how he’d help the Heat if placed back in his usual lineup spot. As nice as it was for Miami to have the perennial all-star come off of the bench, he’s been starting with these guys for two seasons now and everybody is far more comfortable with that being the case, even if he has missed some action of late. Bosh opens the floor for James and Wade with his ability to make shots and makes Serge Ibaka far less effective help-wise than he is when he is guarding Udonis Haslem. Ibaka can’t cheat nearly as much against Bosh, since the former Raptor can fill up the scoresheet.

4. KEEP JAMES ON DURANT

Durant blitzed anybody who tried to stop him in Game 1 – except James. Durant shot 0-for-2 when James was on him – a small sample size to be sure but nobody else gave him problems.

James is the only Miami player with a prayer of slowing down OKC’s scoring machine. His size, lateral quickness and explosive athletic ability make LeBron the only ideal candidate to check Durant.

5. EXTEND THE ROTATION

OKC is younger, deeper and more athletic than Miami so only giving six players significant minutes is going to end disastrously for Spoelstra.

Miami desperately needs James Jones to return to health as Mike Miller just isn’t cutting it and Battier (41+ minutes!) is playing far too much.

Norris Cole also needs to see more action – something even Bosh hinted at on Wednesday – and Montreal’s Joel Anthony should get a chance to guard Kendrick Perkins, which would keep all of Miami’s big men fresher not only for Game 2, but for the series as a whole.

Spoelstra likely will be tempted to ride his horses again – especially if Miami is leading, given the importance of splitting the series – but the reserves need to play more or there will be nothing left in the tank down the line.

THE KEY MOMENTS FROM GAME 1

Every NBA game has pivotal moments, crucial plays where momentum is swung one way or the other.

In Game 1, Miami carried the play early, clung to its lead as Oklahoma City heated up and eventually crumbled under the stress of trying to stop Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Here are some of the biggest moments from a highly entertaining game that earned ABC its best Nielsen rating ever for an NBA series opener:

-- 1:54 remaining first quarter: Mario Chalmers drains a three – Miami’s fifth of the opening quarter giving the visitors a stunning 27-11 lead.

Skinny: Miami’s torrid three-point shooting left the normally ear-spllitting crowd sitting on its hands early on.

-- 0:00 remaining first quarter: James Harden nails a long jumper while falling down as the buzzer sounds.

Skinny: The Thunder – and the crowd – needed a jolt and Harden’s clutch shot got the place buzzing again.

-- 0:31.4 remaining in second quarter: Russell Westbrook drives to the hoop for a layup, lets everybody know about it and gets a double-technical along with Shane Battier.

Skinny: Again OKC scores late to cut Miami’s lead down to seven to end a quarter. Westbrook’s energy carried over into a third quarter where he notched 12 points.

-- 11:27 remaining third quarter: Kevin Durant nails a three to pull Thunder to within four.

Skinny: It was Durant’s only bucket of the quarter, but served notice of what was to come.

-- 2:35 remaining third quarter: LeBron James throws down a powerful jam.

Skinny: After OKC had tied the game at 60, the first tie since 0-0, James quickly notched back-to-back driving layups. Now, he hammered home a dunk to restore the lead to five while being fouled (he missed the free throw).

-- 0:16.4 seconds remaining third quarter: Westbrook hits a tough layup after splitting two defenders and hits a free throw to give Thunder its first lead of game.

Skinny: The scene was bedlam immediately following Westbrook’s layup and the noise carried on the rest of the way. The Thunder never trailed again.

-- 6:53 remaining fourth quarter: James hits an extremely difficult turnaround jumper over Thabo Sefolosha to cut the gap to three.

Skinny: For perhaps the last time that evening, the game was still in doubt following LeBron’s shot.

-- 6:29 remaining fourth quarter: Durant cans a three to double the lead back to six.

Skinny: Nick Collison’s offensive rebound of a Westbrook miss was critical as it allowed Durant to sink his dagger.

-- 1:38 remaining fourth quarter: Following an old-fashioned three-point play by James brought Miami within five, Durant hooked up Collison for a slam.

Skinny: When Chris Bosh followed with a poorly thought out three-point attempt (which missed) that was all she wrote for the Heat.


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