Man, can he shoot. This year he shot just a hair under 50% from the field and 39% from 3 point land. So far in the playoffs, he’s been able to up his shooting to 50.5%. It is obviously imperative that Durant continues to score to effectively negate Lebron James’ output, but his ability to shoot from all spots on the floor will have an added bonus, tiring out Lebron James. Durant may not be as physical as Pierce, but he is unlikely to shoot 34% from the field as Pierce did. This means Lebron will have to expend even more energy ensuring Durant doesn’t have even the smallest shooting window.
LBJ was otherworldly against the Celtics. He averaged 33.6/11.0/3.9 on 52.7% shooting against the Celtics. Despite this, his team was pushed to the brink by the Celtics. Lebron is the last person whom I would question the existence another gear, but I will point out he averaged 45.8 minutes a game in the last series. I’m not sure how Lebron can up the ante, unless he ups his 3 pt shooting from 29% in the last series back up to his 36% shooting from the regular season.
Russ is a prolific volume shooter. Despite shooting a significantly lower percentage across the board and attempting less free throws, Russell has taken approximately the same number of shots as Durant during both the regular season and the playoffs. Talk of him fully embracing his batman role is greatly exaggerated. He may defer a bit more than earlier toward the end of the games, but he still is the wild card for the Thunder. He will single-handedly (and by single-handedly, have a greater than normal influence in a) win a game for the Thunder and cost them a game. I would bet on that; whether he single-handedly wins or loses more games than that, have to be seen.
The only thing exceptional about Wade in the last 5 games of the Celtics series was his whining. This temper tantrum seem familiar (By the way, the foul called was on the rebound by Haslem, Wade pouted on the ground instead of getting back into the play that continued on)
In any case, Wade put up a meager 40.8% shooting to go with a pedestrian (for him) 21 ppg. Had Lebron not taken it to another level, the conference finals would be known as the series when Wade let his team down. (Well, at least on this site. The media probably would have just ripped Lebron anyway). My theory is that Wade is nursing an injury. (It was reported he had his knee drained during the Pacers’ series, but it was never confirmed before the rumor spread like wildfire). If the the Heat plan on winning a title, they need Wade to step up big, especially considering they are not facing a decrepit and banged up team like they did with Boston.
It turns out that Ibaka’s career shooting night against the Spurs wasn’t that big of a fluke. Yes, he made a lot of shots, but he isn’t a bad jump shooter. For the year he’s shooting 46% on jump shots 16-23 feet away. Granted it was only 2.6 shots per game from the distance, but that’s roughly what David West provided who is noted for being a good jump shooting, big man. Durant, by the way, shoots the same percentage (on a lot more shots). This means that Miami will have to respect his shot if he slides away from the basket when someone drives or during a pick and roll. If I’m Scott Brooks, I run a lot of screen and rolls with Ibaka on Lebron. This will force Lebron to double down on Durant and leave Ibaka for an open jumper or take him away from the paint where his size can do some serious damage.
He is the Heat’s wild card. If the substandard play of Wade continues, the Heat will desperately need Bosh to pick up the slack. Ignoring his freak 3-pt shooting last game (.289 shooter from distance for his career), he has looked a step slow in his comeback. This is 100% expected after missing so much time and, I’m sure, still feeling the effects of the injury. Bosh needs to establish is jumper early, because having Ibaka (or Perkins) out of the lane will make Lebron and Wade’s lives infinitely easier. He’s likely to receive more defensive attention than he did against the Celtics, as the Thunder have more than just Kevin Garnett to protect the paint.
I really want to say something insightful about Kendrick Perkins, but all I can ever think about is the glorious Sad Perk tumblr.
In any case, Perkins is no offensive dynamo, so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do against the likes of Joel Anthony. There’s also concern for end of games as he’s a 60% ft shooter, but an important stopper in the paint.
Wade will probably get the majority of the time guarding Westbrook which will allow Chalmers to float around as he’ll be on the offensively challenged Sefolosha. He was second on the team in steals (3rd per game) so he could prove to be a nuisance on the court.
His job is to play great defense on Wade and/or Lebron. He is a liability on offense, though not nearly to the degree as when he was on the Bulls. He shote 44% on 1.7 3′s a game during the regular season. If he can duplicate that at all, it will be a huge plus for the Thunder.
I’ll also point out that James Harden has upped his scoring in the playoffs while also upping his 3 point shooting percentage.
I don’t have much to say about Anthony either as he is fairly insignificant. Haslem may actually start in his stead. I’ll make a bold prediction here instead, Thunder in 6. Game 1 and 2 go to the Thunder. Game 3 and 5 go to the Heat. Games 4 and 6 go to the Thunder. With the stupid 2-3-2 format, it’s super important for the Thunder to win their first 2 games if they want to win the final.