South Beach Factor no concern to Thunder
By TIM REYNOLDS
MIAMI (AP) It's called the South Beach Factor. And it's been a boost to the Miami Heat over the years.
The Oklahoma City Thunder aren't worried about it having a role in the next three games of these NBA Finals.
In short, here's how it works: Teams come into Miami, settle into their posh hotel, then hit the open-until-very-late club scene on South Beach (the main strip of which is several miles from the arena, despite the common assumption otherwise). They stay out longer than they should, are a little weary-legged the next day, and the Heat take advantage of that on the court in the game.
"I don't think when you get to this point on guys that are not committed, guys that are not really locked in, geared in to what we're doing as a group," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Miami is a great city, there's no question. It's a great environment, but we're here to play basketball. There's only 10 days, two weeks left of the season, then there's plenty of time to vacation."
For the record, the Thunder do not plan on changing hotels during their stay in Miami, or moving the team farther away from some of South Beach's glitz and glamour. Dallas moved hotels in 2006 after losing Games 3 and 4 in Miami, heading to a hotel more north of the arena. The Mavs lost Game 5 anyway, then went home and were closed out by the Heat in Game 6 that year.
"I remember that story," said Heat guard Dwyane Wade, the MVP of that season's finals. "But I think maybe during the regular season a team comes here once and will enjoy it, but not during the finals. You look at the season and say, `Man, there's only 10 days left in the season at best.' I don't think it's a trap. I don't think the urge to want to go out and enjoy Miami is that important right now, especially when in 10 days you can enjoy it as much as you want."
Brooks certainly doesn't sound all that concerned. He was asked Saturday about the perils his team might face in Miami the next few days.
"What about the coaches?" Brooks deadpanned.
As laughter broke out in the room, Brooks was quick to point out that his wife also made the trip with him to Miami.
TICKET WATCH: Hundreds of Dallas fans made their way to Miami last season for the NBA Finals, many of them taking advantage of the amount of tickets for sale on the secondary market.
Oklahoma City fans might be doing the same thing.
It's not as if people in Miami didn't snap up the available tickets: Sunday's game will be the 66th straight postseason home sellout for the Heat, stretching back to 1999. But online ticket marketplace StubHub had huge amounts of inventory available on Saturday for Games 3, 4 and 5 of the finals in Miami - some of them for as little as $163, well below what the average seat cost for Games 1 and 2 of the series in Oklahoma City.
StubHub said that on Saturday afternoon, sellers had listed 1,777 tickets for Game 3, 2,823 tickets for Game 4 and 3,066 tickets for Game 5. Based on AmericanAirlines Arena's listed capacity of 19,600 (more tickets than that are typically sold, when factoring in standing-room availability), that would mean roughly 13 percent of every seat for the games in Miami was being made available on StubHub alone.
If the series returns to Oklahoma City, StubHub said that 762 tickets were already available early Saturday for Game 6 there (lowest price $522) and another 498 were offered for Game 7 (lowest price $797).
And if all that is outside the budget, fret not: There's even some tickets available already for Miami's Oct. 23 preseason game in Raleigh, N.C. against the Charlotte Bobcats. Lowest price: $44.
SIMILAR PATHS: Earlier in these NBA Finals, Miami's LeBron James - the reigning MVP for the third time - said he avoids getting wrapped up in the best-player-in-the-league debate, despite tons of talk that this series will show if either he or Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant is the top individual talent in the game today.
Either way, the opinions won't be unanimous.
But this much is certain: Through his first 40 playoff games, Durant is putting up some numbers quite similar to what James managed in his first 40 postseason appearances:
Durant's teams are 24-16 so far in his playoff career, and he's averaging 28.1 points and 7.9 rebounds in that span.
James' first 40 playoff games? His teams in Cleveland went 23-17, with him averaging 27.3 points and 8.3 rebounds.
"You can't stop KD, you just don't try to give him easy ones," James said. "You don't want to give him an easy dunk in transition where you didn't get back on defense. ... He's going to make shots. He can make any shot the game has to offer."
NOTES: No surprise, given that he's a three-time scoring champion, but Kevin Durant tends to play well in Miami. He's averaged 30.3 points in his last three road games against the Heat, shooting 52 percent. ... LeBron James was plus-20 (meaning the Heat outscored the Thunder by 20 points when he was on the court) during Oklahoma City's lone trip to Miami this season. Only three other players - Jordan Hill (27), Tim Duncan (24) and Dirk Nowitzki (24) - had a better plus-minus in any game this season against the Thunder. ... Thunder coach Scott Brooks appeared in 12 games at Miami during his playing career, his teams going 8-4. ... Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is not only three wins shy of an NBA title, but he's three wins shy of matching Pat Riley for the top spot on Miami's postseason victory list. Riley went 34-36 in playoff games as Miami's coach; Spoelstra takes a 31-22 record into Game 3.
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Updated June 16, 2012