The Oklahoma City Thunder made it to the NBA Finals largely thanks to the play of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, but it was the bench that seemed to turn things around on Tuesday night. Durant and Westbrook were both huge in the second half on the way to putting the Heat in a 1-0 hole, but it was the Oklahoma City role players that served as catalysts when the Thunder needed a spark.
Nick Collison and Thabo Sefolosha likely didn't read their names in the bold print of any headlines when they woke up on Wednesday morning, but SB Nation's own Welcome to Loud City pointed out that the two players came off the bench to provide possibly the best plays of the game.
However, if you don't have unlimited time on your hands, then you should know this when going to the watercooler today. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant might have been offensive beasts in the fourth quarter, scoring 19 straight points. But in terms of defense and hustle, Nick Collison and Thabo Sefolosha are the reasons we won.
Seeing Collison turn into a hustle guy was really strange. He's usually known as a guy who plays smart, takes shots, never shoots the ball, and has good positioning on his defender. But tonight, he looked more like Ronny Turiaf than he looked like himself. He was getting key steals, tipping out offensive rebounds, going aggressively into the paint; heck, he even committed a few stupid turnovers. Honestly, his play during the first half left a lot to be desired, but his play in the fourth more than made up for it.
Sefolosha was similarly awesome last night. He was constantly guarding tough assignments in Wade and James, forcing some key misses outside of the paint from them, getting out on the break, and killing it in the paint. Sure, he missed a few threes, but without his defense, the Heat could very well have been neck-and-neck late in the game.
There probably weren't many people that would have bet on Collison and Sefolosha as the two biggest difference-makers for the Thunder heading into Tuesday night's game, but both role players played their role excellently to help Oklahoma City to the victory.
Now it's up to the Heat to see if they can find some sustainable bench production going forward.
For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula Is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For Thunder news and notes, visit Welcome To Loud City. And for news, analysis and everything else revolving around the NBA Playoffs, be sure to visit SB Nation's NBA page.