Heat's "Big Three" More Complete

Handicapping News: Heat's "Big Three" More Complete

Before the 2012 NBA Championship series got underway, the bulk of media coverage was about how the "big three" of each team was likely to fair vs. their opponents. Oklahoma brought the energy and scoring potential of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Miami had size, experience, and scoring potential with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Though, it wasn't clear how healthy Wade (knee) and Bosh (abdominal muscle) were going to be.

Oklahoma City was the market betting favorite largely because of the respect given their big three, though role players had grown in the eyes of many after the Thunder had won four straight games from the Spurs.

Through four games, Oklahoma City's big three has scored more points, but is failing to show advantages across a fuller spectrum of skills. Let's run some numbers.

BIG THREE SCORING
Oklahoma City 280 points
Miami 259 points

Kevin Durant has had a big game. Russell Westbrook had one of the biggest scoring games from a point guard you're likely to see in a league finals. That was enough to give the Thunder the edge in this stat. If baseball was only about scoring...everyone would be celebrating OKC right now instead of wondering if they'll be able to stay alive with their backs to the wall in tonight's Game Five.

BIG THREE REBOUNDING
Miami 102
Oklahoma 67

Huge edge here for the Heat. Rebounding has historically played a big role in determining playoff winners. Miami's big three is more balanced across the full spectrum because Bosh can rebound (particularly against non-bruisers like OKC), because James is very physical for his position, and because Wade can use his veteran savvy to position himself for longer misses. The team that controls the boards controls the pace. Miami has forced its pace on this series.

BIG THREE ASSISTS
Miami 48
Oklahoma City 48

The Thunder's best hopes to overcome their rebounding issues involve moving the ball around and getting the role players contributing. But, that's just not happening. Even though one of OKC's big three is a point guard, while none of Miami's big three are, this category is still a dead heat through four games. Individual scorers don't win NBA championships...TEAMS win NBA championships. LeBron James in particular has shown you in this series what it takes to win a championship on BOTH sides of the ball and in MULTIPLE areas of contribution.

BIG THREE MINUTES
Miami 491
Oklahoma City 466

It's also important to be on the floor! Now, an edge of 25 minutes divided amongst three guys over four games is only about two minutes per game per player. But...in a tight series, those two minutes can loom very large. Durant had to miss some time with foul trouble in Game Three. Harden comes off the bench. Some might argue that this one category has mattered more than any other. The spots here and there where Miami's stars get to face lesser lineups from OKC are making the difference.

Add it all up...and it's pretty clear that Miami is getting the best of it in terms of the Big Three even though they're not scoring as much. They're using rebounds to force their preferred pace, and they're grinding out their edges thanks to a couple of extra minutes per game. Little things win close games. If Oklahoma City is going to stay alive with a road upset Thursday Night, their "big three" will have to play a more complete game. They'll have to rebound better (Durant was non-existent on the boards Tuesday). They'll have to work harder to get teammates involved rather than trying to take all the shots themselves. And, they'll have to avoid foul trouble so they can stay on the floor.

Will the Thunder take the series back to Oklahoma City? Or, will LeBron James win his first championship tonight in South Beach?
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