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Energy, Aggression Key To Thunder Winning NBA Championship

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

Game One of the NBA Finals was exactly what you'd expect from two teams vying for a championship.

Quality shooting, good defense and energy were in abundance in Oklahoma City's 105-94 win over the Miami Heat.

However, the questions that resulted after analyzing Game One should worry the Heat a lot more than the Thunder.

For the second straight game, the Thunder fell behind in the first half due to effort and energy that was there, but not at the level needed to beat a quality opponent like Miami. After halftime, the Thunder came out with renewed energy and played a lot harder, holding the Heat to just 40 points in the second half.

"Those guys got open threes, open lay ups," Kevin Durant said after practice Wednesday. "That's not what we pride ourselves on. We can't do that to a championship caliber team, can't give those guys open shots. So we just tried to step it up on the defensive end and know that they're going to be aggressive and make shots, but we can't get discouraged, we've got to continue to play our game."

‘Our game' constitutes relentless, consistent attacking of the basket, and working for the best shot on offense, and toughness and tenacity on the defensive end.

Head coach Scott Brooks said he wants to end every game knowing his team left everything on the court, and nothing to be desired.

"I like aggressive plays, I like guys attacking," Brooks said. "If you've got open shots, you've got to take it. If you've got a drive it, you've got to drive it. If you've got a pass it, you've got to pass it. Simple philosophy, but it's always about being aggressive and aggressive not only for yourself but for your teammates."

A lot of that aggression comes from the Thunder's two best players, Durant, and point guard Russell Westbrook. As those two go, so go the Thunder, particularly on the offensive end. Westbrook knows Brooks desires the two of them stay in attack mode, no matter what that looks like.

"I know when the fourth quarter comes, it's my job to find a way to get Kevin the ball," Westbrook said. "Kevin knows when two guys are on him, he passes, and I stay in attack mode, as well. It's kind of been a happy medium of me shooting or Kevin shooting or whoever shooting the ball, but as long as we stay in attack mode."

Brooks said there was not a lot of effort in the first half, particularly on close-outs on Miami shooters. The Heat knocked down five 3-point field goals in the first quarter, and hit 6/10 for the first half.

"We have to definitely do a better job of contesting those shots," Brooks said. "We don't want to give guys wide open threes."

If the Thunder managed to give up several open 3-point shots in the first half, not play up to its full potential, and still win by 11 points, what will the rest of the series look like?

On the surface, it appears the Heat is in trouble, but adjustments will be made going into Game Two on Thursday. However, those adjustments can go both ways. The Thunder can play a complete game, and if NBA Sixth Man of the Year James Harden can avoid foul trouble, he'll surely contribute more than the five points he did in 22 minutes Tuesday.

Either way, it looks bleak for Miami.

"We definitely have more to give," Westbrook said. "I just think we can start off the game playing a lot harder defensively, and I think if we start the game off playing a lot harder, you can see what this team can bring to the table and what we can do for a 48 minute game."

The question for the Thunder is, "Why aren't they doing it already?"

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