This is a continuation of my preview of each important player outside of LeBron and Durant in this year’s 2012 NBA Finals.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
SG – Thabo Sefolosha: Sefolosha in the 2012 NBA Playoffs is beginning to make his name known to by every one in the NBA as one of the best perimeter defenders. In the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, Thabo simply prevented Spurs point guard Tony Parker from entering the paint at will as he did earlier in the playoffs. After two bad losses on the road in San Antonio which was heavily caused by the Spurs’ guards, Sefolosha lead the way defensively for the Thunder outside the paint by forcing guards to give up the ball and make tough passes around him. In the 2012 NBA Finals, Sefolosha will most likely be guarding the former scoring champion and 2006 NBA Finals MVP Dwyane Wade. However, stats show that Wade has a difficult time in entering the paint whenever Sefolosha is on the floor. In the regular season, when Sefolosha is on the court, Wade has a 0% field goal percentage inside the paint while having a 50% field goal percentage when Thabo sits down. However, when Wade is able to get into the paint and deeper into the restricted area, Wade becomes unstoppable even to Sefolosha. Wade shoots 60% under the rim when Thabo is on the floor and 75% when Thabo is out. Yes, it shows that Sefolosha makes a difference, but 60% is still a bad percentage for a defender like him. So the key thing is for not only Thabo but also the Thunder: Keep Dwyane Wade outside. It’s easy to say that than to actually do it though. Goodluck Thabo!
SF – Shane Battier & SG – Mike Miller: Let’s begin with Shane Battier. In 2011, Shane Battier played with a Memphis Grizzlies team that was eliminated in a 7-game Western Semi-Finals series against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. You smell that? It’s revenge. In that 7-game series, both teams fought hard and it was definitely one of the better playoff series since the Celtics-Bulls series in 2009. Unfortunately, Battier was on the losing side of that series and now has an opportunity to take revenge. With the Thunder not having changed their lineup that significant compared to last post season, Battier certainly knows how the Thunder like to play and what moves Kevin Durant has in his bag of tricks. Battier has mostly been a low-post defender lately with Chris Bosh falling to injury early in the playoffs, but with Bosh back and healthy, Battier can now focus on defending the players/scorers he knows he can stop. Offensively, Battier has been played a key role as well by knocking down three pointers. In Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Battier knocked down 4 big three pointers. And now, it’s time for Miller to follow Battier. Would you say Millertime? I think we are quite far from that still. Mike Miller, a former Grizzlies himself like Battier (although wasn’t with Memphis last year), is known to be one of the best three point shooters in the game today. Unfortunately, due to back problems which sometimes make him seem like a zombie on the court has caused Miller to miss some playing time and make impacts in the playoffs. With the NBA Finals starting pretty soon, Miller will be key on the offensive end as the Big 3 will need help from role players. A couple of threes would do the work Miller. That’s all the Big 3 really needs.