Previewing Game 3 of the 2012 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
1. Where We're At: The series is tied 1-1 after the Heat held on to steal a Game 2 win at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Thursday. The Finals schedule has allowed for a rare extra off-day during these compressed playoffs as both teams head to South Florida for the middle segment of the 2-3-2 format. Miami enters Game 3 at the AmericanAirlines Arena with a postseason record of 8-2 at home after posting a 28-5 home record during the regular season (tied for the league best with the San Antonio Spurs). The Thunder are 4-3 on the road during this year's playoffs, including a Game 5 win over the Spurs in the Western Conference finals, after going 21-12 on the road during the regular season.
2. The Big Number: 69.2 percent. That's Shane Battier's 3-point shooting percentage through the first two games of the NBA Finals. Contrast that with his numbers from earlier in the playoffs: 31.8 percent against the New York Knicks in the first round, 27.3 percent against the Indiana Pacers in the East semifinals and 35.0 percent against the Boston Celtics in the East finals. Obviously Battier is coming back to Earth at some point, the only question is how hard and how fast. The Heat continue to need the offensive production he's offered because Chris Bosh, now back in the starting lineup, hasn't yet hit his full scoring stride. The fear for Miami is that Battier starts missing, the floor starts to close and the offense gets choppier for long stretches, like it did against the Celtics.
3. Key Adjustment: Call it the key non-adjustment: the Oklahoma City Thunder will keep their same starting lineup, the only one they've used all playoffs. Coach Scott Brooks said he didn't even consider making any changes -- some wanted to see Sixth Man of the Year James Harden inserted -- despite seeing his team fall behind by double digits in the first quarters of both Game 1 and Game 2. No surprise there: Brooks is the ultimate "stick to his guns" type of coach. That said, the early-game play must be significantly better if OKC wants to steal back homecourt advantage. In Game 1, Kevin Durant copped to some early-game "jitters," which is understandable. In Game 2, there really was no excuse. OKC has to come out better and more focused on offense. One issue was that a number of early possessions were wasted by the likes of Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefalosha, either with low-percentage shots or turnovers. Getting off to a better start likely means getting back to the stars early.
4. The Big Story: Much of the discussion after Oklahoma City's Game 2 loss centered around All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, who struggled during the first half and shot just 10-for-26 from the field. Westbrook has adopted a take-it-or-leave-it approach to critics who suggest he doesn't distribute enough and doesn't exercise enough discretion when it comes to his shot selection, and Oklahoma City's internal confidence in his abilities seems to remain perpetually steady, regardless of his performance. With LeBron James and Kevin Durant essentially cancelling each other out, Westbrook will remain in the crosshairs as arguably the Finals' the most crucial deciding factor.
5. The Facts: 8 p.m. ET tipoff, no significant injuries. Chris Bosh was moved back into the Heat's starting lineup in Game 2 after coming off the bench for the previous four games after working his way back from an abdominal strain.