When LeBron James announced on that infamous July day that he would join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, I’ll admit: I was worried it would just be too easy for them. It hasn’t worked out that way, for lots of reasons we can get into later. If the Heat clinch the title in Game 5 on Thursday night, they will have had to work hard for it — harder, perhaps, than they or anyone else expected two years ago. And that is cool.
Below are a few things to watch as the Heat chase the ring, with a focus beyond the obvious issues we’ve already beaten to death — the “X-factor” role players, Oklahoma City’s late-game yips and Thunder coach Scott Brooks’ decisions about when to go small and which two players to place alongside stars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. (He must choose Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka or Nick Collison for the big-man spot, and Thabo Sefolosha, Derek Fisher or the forgotten Daequan Cook for the last guard spot.)
• Dealing with LeBron’s post game
Perhaps there really is no better answer than treating Harden like the cow fed to the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, but the Thunder must try to find one. If James is allowed to operate in the post as he did in Game 4, surrounded by three-point shooters and with Bosh at times pulling Oklahoma City’s lone big man away from the rim, the Thunder are toast. They could try extending Sefolosha’s minutes and using him as James’ nearly full-time defender, a move that might make things harder for Oklahoma City on the other end because of Sefolosha’s shaky shooting. They could try Durant on James more often and risk foul trouble. They could send hard double teams. They could instruct Brooks to step onto the court, Erik Spoelstra style, and work as an extra defender. They could try a zone, though they rarely used one in the regular season, and the Heat ranked among the league’s most efficient offenses against the zone, per Synergy Sports.