Monday, June 18, 2012

Miami Heat 2012 Finals by the Numbers

Flashback to June 2011 and the Miami Heat were in the same position they're in today: up 2-1 in the NBA Finals. The difference: The Heat have the experience, camaraderie and resolve that they didn't have last time around. Just compare the stats and you'll see what a year has done for the Heat.

LeBron James has 91 points and 31 rebounds through three games in this year's finals. Last season, LeBron had a total of 107 points and 43 rebounds through six Finals games. That's almost equal the production in half the amount of games. Not to mention, he has already gotten to the free throw line 9 more times than he did in all of 2011 Finals, which is a product of his relentless attack mentality this series.

Miami's perimeter shooting has also elevated this playoff run, growing from 34% in 2011 to 39% in 2012. Shane Battier has come up huge this series from behind the arc, hitting 11 of 15 three-point shots thus far. Battier's lights out shooting has forced the Oklahoma City Thunder to spread the court defensively and open up driving lanes for Miami's Big Three. Hence, the 48 and 46 points in the paint that Miami scored in Game 2 and 3, respectively.

Free throw shooting also plagued Miami in the 2011 playoffs as well as through the first three rounds of the 2012 playoffs. The Heat shot less than 71% in all of the 2011 playoffs but have turned things around in the 2012 Finals by shooting 85% from the charity stripe. In essence, they're attacking the basket, getting to the line and making the Thunder pay.

Beyond the numbers, fans, writers and analysts can all see a different demeanor with this team. The excessive celebration and showmanship has been replaced with a collective business-first composure. Miami now understands the challenges and pressures that present themselves in a Finals series while the Thunder are learning those lessons on the job. It's experience versus youthful energy and, up to this point, experience has prevailed.

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