What Can The Thunder Do To Win Tonight, Avoid Facing Elimination On The Road?
Aside from being in a tough 3-1 hole, the reason that the game tomorrow night is so incredibly important to the Thunder is because if they lose they will face elimination in Miami in Game 5. Winning tomorrow night ensures that the Thunder will not face elimination on the road and can go back home to play in front of the best fans in the league, which is important to this young team.
So here's some adjustments I'd make if I were running the show:
Let me get this one out of the way: there were a lot of fans and analysts calling for James Harden to start in Game 3. I would absolutely not do that. Just no. Terrible idea. First of all, you already have the first and fifth leading scorers in the entire NBA out there. They shouldn't need any help. These guys averaged a combined 51.6 points per game this year, and you're telling me they need another scorer on the court to get them started? No. That problem will fix itself. Young guns got some butterflies in their stomachs in their first finals is all.
Also, Thabo Sefolosha is a must-start player. I don't care if he's not hitting his shots (6 points per game on 33% shooting during finals). He needs to guard LeBron. Durant has now been in bad foul trouble for two straight games, and it's hurting the team badly. I love that Durant wants to guard LeBron, but it's just not worth it. Durant is not an elite defender and is too valuable to rack up fouls trying to guard LeBron James. Despite the lack of offensive production, Sefolosha is averaging 2.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game with only 2.7 fouls, which are very nice defensive numbers. I like Harden starting in place of Kendrick Perkins better, but I still wouldn't do it for the sake of bench scoring...
Which leads to my last point as to why Harden should not start: they need his bench scoring. If you replace Sefolosha or Perkins in the starting lineup with Harden, who in God's name is going to score for that bench? Derek Fisher and Daequan Cook are good for a spot up three now and then, but they can't create. Nick Collison, Sefolosha, and Perkins are defensive role players. Harden is essentially the point guard, creator, and scorer for that bench unit, and without him on the bench the Thunder have not a single decent bench scorer.
Enough with the one adjustment I wouldn't make, now for the adjustments I would. As I mentioned before, Sefolosha needs to guard LeBron. Enough of Durant making his case as an immortal all-around monster who racks up points and shuts down the MVP. We all respect Durant for trying, but it's just not worth it.