Here’s a look at some of the major questions going into Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night (9 p.m. ET, ABC):
• What is Miami’s defensive game plan?
This applies to both individual matchups and the Heat’s general philosophy. Coach Erik Spoelstra deployed LeBron James as an all-purpose play destroyer in Game 1, having him guard every position on the floor in an effort to limit Kevin Durant without actually forcing James to exhaust himself defending the three-time scoring champion one-on-one full time. (That job went largely to Shane Battier.) James started on center Kendrick Perkins and spent chunks of the game defending the Thunder big men who would be the most likely screeners for Durant, a strategy that allowed him to switch onto Durant once those picks came.
The Thunder gradually adapted by changing the identity of the screeners to push James out of the play entirely and running all sorts of counters designed to produce mismatches. They also ran a ton of high pick-and-rolls for point guard Russell Westbrook early. After Westbrook and power forward Serge Ibaka combined to burn the Heat’s trapping defense, Miami began switching those plays in the second half, too.
Nothing really worked. And no defense has worked against the Thunder all season, especially in the playoffs. Miami might be outsmarting itself with all this trickery, but it’s also possible that sticking James on Durant — and Battier on either a Thunder big man or a limited offensive player such as shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha — just isn’t an option given the possible fatigue factor for LeBron. Is there a middle ground somewhere? It will be interesting to see what Spoelstra has up his sleeve.