|Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant calls Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade "Too Small" after nailing a jump shot. Courtesy of SB Nation|
Despite leading by as many as 10 points in the second quarter, and matching the Heat point-for-point for much the game, the Thunder were plagued by foul trouble, poor free throw shooting, turnovers, bad decision making and strange coaching moves at decisive moments during third and fourth quarters.
To be blunt, Oklahoma City easily could have, should have, won this game. At one point they were up 46-36, had all the momentum on their side and were on the verge of taking a commanding lead in the game.
Their offense, which was clunky out of the gate once again in this series, had found its stride. They were getting stops on defense and forced the Heat, who put up 26 first quarter points by driving to the basket and were 10-of-11 in the paint, to settle for jumpers that simply weren't falling. The fickle Miami crowd was hushed, and Heat PA announcer Michael Balamonte, who sounds as if he's had several major strokes, was mercifully euthanized.
Then suddenly, when they needed it most, Oklahoma's offense evaporated, and the Heat rallied to take a one point 47-46 lead into the half.
But the wheels didn't fall off the wagon for the Thunder until the third quarter where the following happened:
- Kevin Durant (who had scored eight of the team's first 12 points in the quarter) picked up his fourth foul with 5:51 left on a questionable call while guarding Dwyane Wade and was forced to sit for the remainder of the quarter. As this point the Thunder led 60-54.
- Oklahoma point guard Russel Westbrook commits two turnovers on back-to-back possessions.
- Westbrook is subsequently benched for James Harden, who would finish the quarter with the unremarkable stat line of two points on 0-for-3 shooting and 2-for-4 at the line.
- With Durant and Westbrook on the bench, the Thunder offense goes anemic while shooting a dismal 1-for-7. Their offensive powers vanished while LeBron and Wade (along with help from Shane Battier and James Jones) went on a 15-3 run to end the quarter with a 69-67 lead heading into the final period.
Sure the Thunder would stay within reach for much of the fourth quarter, but their momentum had grown stagnate. In the game's final 12 minutes Durant would only score a measly four points and become the softest player on the court, settling for too many weak layups instead of forcing his way to the basket and getting to the line.
The rest of the Thunder were nowhere to be found as well. From the 7:31 mark to the 3:36 mark, Oklahoma were stuck at 77 points while Miami built a comfortable enough lead to withstand a final run by the Thunder in the closing minutes.
As in Game 2, Durant had a strong game all things considered. But unlike the previous games where he came alive in the fourth, he was nowhere to be found. Westbrook, a proven All-Star who has been criticized for his decision making, gave his doubters another round of ammunition after throwing the ball away on several occasions. Harden shot a dismal 2-for-10 while also flopping to draw a poorly timed defensive foul with less than two minutes to go in the game.
Meanwhile, the Heat came up big the clutch yet again, hitting all but one of their six free throws to close out the game, and going 31-of-35 from the charity stripe. While the Thunder were uncharacteristically sloppy, the Heat were uncharacteristically clutch.