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2012 NBA Finals Heat-Thunder Game 3: Five things to watch

Jun 17, 2012, 1:30 PM EDT

Miami Heat's James goes to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder's Durant during Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals in Oklahoma City Reuters

With the Heat and Thunder knotted at 1-1, the NBA Finals resume Sunday night for the latest in a series of “pivotal” games. Both sides have accomplished some things in the first two games beyond just the one win, and both have established challenges they’ll have to overcome. Here are five things to keep an eye on as the Miami Heat host the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

1. A Bully In the Schoolyard: LeBron James went to work inside in Game 2. 18 of his 20 points off of field goals came from shots in the paint, with more coming on fouls drawn inside on post-shots and drives. The Thunder adapted well in the fourth quarter, sending multiple defenders at James on the pick and roll but they haven’t figured out a solution for the post yet. They can double, but James is such a good passer, you’re risking giving up a high percentage look. They have to get James discouraged with his post play to the point he abandons it, or swarm him to force turnovers. One thing that will not work is guarding him one-on-one with Kevin Durant. Durant just doesn’t have the size to counter James’ brute strength.

2. Living On The Line: For all the complaints about the officiating in Game 2, the Thunder had one more free throw. Both of these teams are drawing a lot of fouls. If the officials stop calling things, that’s going to favor the Heat, with their more physical approach and experience against Boston. But if the perimeter calls increase, that’s a good thing for Oklahoma City, who can eat you alive with free throw attempts.

3. Something Inside: Kendrick Perkins is getting killed this series. In every game, it’s a battle between what Perkins can provide on defense and what having him on the floor sacrifices inside. Unfortunately, in this series, it’s been damaging on both ends. But Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison have struggled as well. The Thunder need to attack Udonis Haslem who’s been having a hard time in the playoffs finishing plays with blown catches, and who gives up some length and size. The Thunder have to get contributions from the bigs on both ends or they’re sunk. They cannot lose the battle down low.

4. Late Beard Assault: James Harden was severely limited in the 4th quarter of Game 2 after keeping the Thunder alive offensively in the first half. Getting him more looks is important, because he’s one of their only real playmakers. Harden creates opportunities for other players, including the superstars with open looks, and is able to knock down contested shots. He can’t be frozen out, even for Westbrook and Durant. More plays have to be run with him as intiator.

5. Glass Houses. The Heat got back on the rebounding battle in Game 2, but it’s still an area of difficulty for them. Chris Bosh has to have double-digit rebounds and Dwyane Wade needs to contribute as well. They’re a guard-rebounding team, and they have to stick to that. Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf have been frozen out of this series and with Erik Spoelstra rarely making changes once he sets plans for a series, its’ clear they want to stick with the small-ball approach. That means more of an emphasis on the Big 3. Like that’s something they need.

  1. gmen4life33 - Jun 17, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    1) If Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook BOTH get fouled on the last play, with a ref 3 ft away, will the ref call the obvious foul on MIA?

    We will have to watch to find out lol

    • md23rewlz - Jun 17, 2012 at 2:24 PM

      Sweet, the game hasn’t been played and already people are complaining about the officiating. That shot was one shot in a 48 minute game. It’s not why the Thunder lost. DIE OFFICIATING COMPLAINTS DIE.

      • gmen4life33 - Jun 17, 2012 at 2:28 PM

        Actually 2 shots, obvious foul on KD, then Westbrook getting smacked on the put-back. 2 missed obvious calls for the home team then deprived all NBA fans a Finals OT period that would have been awesome. Why? So MIA could get a game in OKC

      • gmen4life33 - Jun 17, 2012 at 2:30 PM

        But I do agree that the first 47.5 minutes of Game 2 were very fair, 50/50 calls going both ways, but you have to give KD and Westbrook the same respect LBJ and Wade would have gotten to close a game at home

    • mutigersorsfninersfootball - Jun 17, 2012 at 2:27 PM

      While I like your comment and feel that the Heat do get the David Stern treatment. Is this a phillosophical question “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around does it make a sound?”

    • thenmoveback - Jun 17, 2012 at 2:45 PM

      1) give me a break, that last foul was a hand slap that Durant still got a clean shot and missed, he even said so
      2) Durant should have already foulded out with the charge Shane took several mins earlier
      3) westbrooke was given a free and1 in the last min when they said James fouled him which he clearly didn’t.
      4) watch the game from a non biased point of view, Lebron get hit almost everyplay, wade too
      5) stoping crying babies

      • gmen4life33 - Jun 17, 2012 at 2:49 PM

        “1) give me a break, that last foul was a hand slap that Durant still got a clean shot and missed, he even said so”

        Soo, with your first point, you admitt KD got slapped trying to tie up the game and it didnt get called. And he is a “Superstar” who was playing at HOME. Yea, your argument ends there

      • thenmoveback - Jun 17, 2012 at 3:12 PM

        No it was clearly a foul on James. But in The last 5 mins of that game the refs blew at least 6 calls a few for each team, and I’m just sick of hearing ppl complain about 1 bad call when there were tons of them. If that situation were reversed and James took that shot and missed, all you would hear is how he had a clear shot and missed it, not about the foul. But u can’t stop the hating. I’m just gonna watch the series as a real fan and enjoy the great matchup that it is. Scoring champ VS MVP!

      • lyndseymarieee - Jun 17, 2012 at 4:29 PM

        Durant said he missed the shot because he is not the type of player to complain about the refs. Actually the Thunder as an organization are not the type to complain about calls. It was a foul. Everyone concedes that fact. I’m not complaining that it wasn’t called. That call is not the reason they lost the game. But it wasn’t just a “slap on the hand”.

    • eddiecrash1976 - Jun 17, 2012 at 4:01 PM

      Duarnt shouldnt have been in the game.

      CHARGE!

    • eddiecrash1976 - Jun 17, 2012 at 4:02 PM

      Charge!

    • eddiecrash1976 - Jun 17, 2012 at 4:04 PM

      If it was a foul they wouldve called it. The game was at OKC. Make that argument when the call doesnt go your way when playing on the opposing teams home court. Charge!

    • eddiecrash1976 - Jun 17, 2012 at 4:06 PM

      lol, CHARGE!

      • gmen4life33 - Jun 17, 2012 at 4:10 PM

        it wasnt a charge, the rule stats when the offensive player “gathers the ball”, meaning picks up his dribble. When Durant stops dribbling, Battier was still sliding. Dont look at when Durant leaves the floor (lots of NBA fans think thats the rule), but when he gathers the ball. It was close, but correct call.

        Fould on Durant and Westbrook isnt debatable or close, they were fouls. nice try.

    • eddiecrash1976 - Jun 17, 2012 at 4:09 PM

      Its obvious youve never played ball in your life. lol
      Always looking to the refs to bail you out. lol
      And if you did play ball, im sure other ballers stopped playing with you after a one game, you probably called foul playin horse! lol

      • gmen4life33 - Jun 17, 2012 at 4:12 PM

        Actually played Division III ball at NYU. Im sure you have dont better.

      • gmen4life33 - Jun 17, 2012 at 4:22 PM

        And because I have played ball at a fairly competitive level before, I cant explain how frustrating bad calls are in the last minutes of a game. Its a bad feeling thing losing a game you deserve to lose, but its a horrible feeling getting a chance to win taken away from you. Maybe thats why I pick on the refs a little too much. Early in the game, you can overcome it. But in the last minute or two, they are just backbreakers and those loses stick with you. Horrible feeling.

    • md23rewlz - Jun 17, 2012 at 7:17 PM

      The Thunder had more free throw attempts than Miami. It’s not a respect issue. Basketball is a contact sport, and what happened on that Durant shot was a subtle hand check and one play on one possession out of two-hundred combined possessions or thereabouts. In the course of the game, that one play is actually almost completely insignificant (just as any individual play is, in and of itself, insignificant). The Thunder lost for many reasons. I have no clue why the officiating is what people are focusing on, other than that it’s easier to blame a third party than it is to blame your team, or credit the other team. So, officials did it.

  2. bestcoastinfluence - Jun 17, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    The officiating is a huge issue that is why it is being brought up. It needs to be addressed and Miami fans would be making just as big a deal if they hadn’t gotten a foul call in that situation. Luckily for the Thunder Joey Crawford is a ref tonight and we all know he is the NBA’s officiating equalizer. Should be interesting.

    • md23rewlz - Jun 17, 2012 at 7:29 PM

      It doesn’t need to be addressed. The officials, on the whole, do a good job. They miss some calls, but 98% of the time, they are on the money. To ask them to be perfect is absurd. They’re running around the court surrounded by ten huge humans, all of whom are doing different things, almost all of it at a high rate of speed. And the calls they have to make (say difference between charge, block, and no-call) are often determined by the absolute slightest of margins (did Player A have the slightest inch of his heel on the black line of the restricted area?). Again, all with EVERYBODY moving, in real time, in a game where there is contact on almost every single play. When we’re watching at home on the couch, we get the benefits of seeing five slow-motion replays of any play in question.

  3. thejabronisayz - Jun 17, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    For the record – did KD get fouled? Yes. Lebron illegally hooked his arm. With that being said:

    1. KD should have fouled out after charging into Battier. He was lucky to still be in the game. I don’t want an NBA finals game being decided due to one team’s best player fouling out, so in many ways i’m glad he didn’t foul out. But just like the no-call on Lebron could have (and perhaps, should have) been called a foul, the call against Battier could have (and also, perhaps, should have) been KD’s sixth and final foul.

    2. Lebron unhooked his arm as KD was going up for the shot; his arm was not hit in the act of shooting and despite Lebron’s contact KD was still fully capable of making the shot. He didn’t. He missed.

    If the Thunder don’t like the call, or non-call for that matter, then they can prove that they are the better team by beating Miami in South Beach. Simple as that.

  4. jimmymarlinsfan - Jun 17, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    Heat in the finals? Check
    Bloggers bitching about Lebron? Check
    Article about heat in finals with bloggers bitching about LeBron? Check
    Their whining living on the Internet forever? Check mate

  5. fanz928 - Jun 17, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    Miami didn’t get that charge call that should had fouled out durant and the game would be over quicker

  6. reesesteel23 - Jun 17, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    I REALLY hope im not one the last people on the planet that Dont want refs to decide the game…especially in those types of situations(Unless the guy gets frickin tackled). Superstars know you have to put the ball in the basket to win….You should want to score, not go to the line. Thats a cop-out. Much more exciting seeing a game winner with 1 second remaining, instead of watchin a guy get freebies.

  7. fleegits - Jun 17, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    Actually, it was the awful goaltending in the first half that haunted OKC. If that call is corrected they have the ball in a tie game with :12 left.

    • md23rewlz - Jun 17, 2012 at 7:35 PM

      No, it was the LeBron banker. No, it was one of Kevin Durant’s misses in the second quarter. No, it was Bosh hitting a jumper in the third. No, it was two missed foul shots. No, etc. When you can point to almost literally any play as the reason that a team lost a close game, it means that no one play is the reason they lost the game.

  8. Shawn - Jun 17, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    I picked the Thunder to win the series but I think the Heat will win this game. The Thunder will win either game 4 or 5 (possibly both) then finish it off at home. Please check out what I said http://wsrjb.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/nba-finals-game-3-prediction-and-preview-oklahoma-city-thunder-at-miami-heat/

  9. isujames - Jun 17, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    Watch the Heat blow them out the building.

  10. isujames - Jun 17, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    Durant actually should have fouled out of the last game,but anyway OKC was @ home and played like a road team for most of the game.Watch tonights game, the Heat will show you how its done.Im predicting the HEAT will win by atleast +10 POINTS.

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