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NBA finals Game 3: Heat grind out win with assist from Thunder

Jun 17, 2012, 11:46 PM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat - Game Three Getty Images

The Miami Heat attacked from the opening tip and they owned the paint. But that wasn’t enough — the Oklahoma City Thunder adjusted, taking away the inside game and looked like they were going to take the game away on the road.

And then the Thunder imploded. Oklahoma City fouled 3-point shooters. They missed free throws. They turned the ball over. They had Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sit at the end of the third quarter and their lead evaporated. In the fourth quarter James Harden was terrible. They blew the lead.

Then it became a sloppy, grind-it-out kind of game.

And Miami won it. Miami made their free throws, got stops and won 91-85 to take a 2-1 series lead in the NBA Finals. Game 4 is Tuesday night in Miami.

It has to be heartening for Heat fans — they know their team can win when the offense is clicking, but getting the win in an ugly, grinding game speaks volumes. It’s why Miami leads the series. It’s what title teams do.

Oh, and by the way, the Heat and LeBron James were just better down the stretch.

But that’s not why they won. Miami won because they were the aggressors. They got into the paint on the dribble drive (and some passes) early and for the game shot 23-of-35 at the rim, according to Hoopdata. Meanwhile, the athletic shot-blockers of the Heat continue to confound the Thunder, who were 13-of-27 at the rim.

The real place the Thunder lost this came in the third quarter when the team had made a run and was up by seven points. Durant picked up his fourth foul and coach Scott Brooks sat him, as expected. Then Westbrook made a couple of bad plays and Brooks sat him, too.

Miami went on a 15-3 run and took the lead.

“I took (Durant) out because he had the foul trouble right there,” Brooks said. “And Russell … Russell had a bad stretch for three or four possessions. I just took him out to kind of calm him down and put him right back in the game. I’ve done it before.”

The Thunder also missed free throws — going 15-of-24 from the line. It’s something unexpected for the best free-throw shooting team in the NBA during the regular season at 80.6 percent.

Then there was James Harden — 2-of-10 shooting on the night, two key turnovers late and a terrible blocking foul on LeBron late when the Thunder shouldn’t have fouled.

LeBron scored eight of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, and played fantastic all game making cuts off the ball and getting rebounds in the paint. Dwyane Wade did not have a good game, despite the 25 points. Wade was 5-of-15 shooting in the first half, and he finished the game with five turnovers. Durant had 25 points on 19 shots, and Westbrook added 19 points.

It was sloppy. Miami had five turnovers in the fourth quarter and shot just 41 percent. But they got to the line and hit their free throws, they crashed the boards and they ground out a win.

“In order to win we have to play physical and control the boards,” Chris Bosh said after the game. “We need to keep doing it.”

They just need to do it two more times and they will be NBA champions.

  1. redbullenergydrink - Jun 17, 2012 at 11:47 PM

    Live by the jump shot, die by the jump shot.

    • teamobijuan - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      Lebron James, James Harden.

      • heat256 - Jun 18, 2012 at 10:04 AM

        LBJ hasn’t taken many jump shots the last two games. Heat have won both. Coincidence? If he plays aggressive, goes to the rim and gets KD in foul trouble I don’t know if OKC can match it. OKC is not built for bruising, paint play. They shoot jumpers and beat you with athleticism. Perhaps the Heat may just have enough of their own to counter OKC plus they have Finals experience. I don’t know if that’s enough, but it gives them a damn good chance. If the Heat win Tues night I would expect them to close it out Thursday. But if they don’t win I honestly don’t know how it’d turn out. That’s the beauty of all of this. Either team seems to find ways to give them game away. MIA did it game 1, and OKC the next two.

  2. angulocarlos1 - Jun 17, 2012 at 11:55 PM

    \¸.¤ KD 4th quarter: 2-6 FG, 0-2 FT’s 2 TO’s.
    / \

    • teamobijuan - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:24 AM

      Thumbs down for symbol art.

  3. rodgersmvp - Jun 17, 2012 at 11:56 PM

    Those two three pointer fouls decided the game. You can’t do something that idiotic in the Finals. EspeciallyTWICE.

    • addictedzone - Jun 18, 2012 at 1:04 AM

      Two fouls led to six free throws. Battier hit three. Jones hits three. And Miami had a six point gift.

  4. duane888 - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:35 AM

    OKC seemed to have wilted from the pressure. The Heat simply showed they had more “heart” and the will to win.

    • bougin89 - Jun 18, 2012 at 11:16 AM

      You’re kidding/sarcastic right? That 4th quarter was pathetic for both teams. As bad as OKC played they were right there and made a run in the last 2 minutes.

      Turnovers and missed jump shots down the stretch by both teams. The end of the 3rd quarter and free throw shooting were the big differences in the game.

      • duane888 - Jun 18, 2012 at 4:22 PM

        Yes the game was up for grabs starting the 4th quarter. But Durant realized he can’t play with Lebron and it showed. He played tentative and missed free throws. He was rattled and couldn’t recover. It’s that simple.

      • bougin89 - Jun 18, 2012 at 8:48 PM

        Durant didn’t play well in the 4th quarter which is unusual. Lebron didn’t take over in the 4th and hasn’t this entire playoffs. Saying Durant was rattled because of James is idiotic. Durant is a much better clutch(4th quarter) player.It’s been years since Lebron has had a 4th quarter that matches either of Durant’s 4th quarters in games 1 and 2.

  5. scalfor3 - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    that harden “foul” was when lebron extended a forearm shiver into him that knocked him on his ass. its a move lebron has gotten away with all series, he uses it as a kinda subtle stiff arm when he goes to the basket. it should be called.

    refs weren’t why the thunder lost tonight, they clearly have no one to blame but themselves. however, there is absolutely a double standard officiating-wise between the two stars. how lebron gets called for one foul playing 44 minutes as physically as he does is absurd.

  6. connect2bh - Jun 18, 2012 at 1:13 AM

    I think you’re missing how important Bosh’s help defense was on Durant, altering shots, rebounding..I truly believe that was the difference

  7. jh4prez - Jun 18, 2012 at 4:17 AM

    Biggest story is lebron was held below 30 for the first time in forever and the heat won.great defensive game.

  8. rickyspanish - Jun 18, 2012 at 6:38 AM

    I always figured Harden had enough skills to not have to pull punk moves, but I am wrong. That blocking foul on LeBron at the end was terrible. Not only does he flop, he’s bad at it. He blew any chance his team might have had. Miami is looking great, I hope the Heat close those fools out.

    • heat256 - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:12 AM

      If people want to complain about floppers, put his name right up there with the best of them. problem is, he isn’t enough of a superstar to get the benefit of those calls.

    • duane888 - Jun 18, 2012 at 4:25 PM

      I was starting to wonder if i was the only one noticing Harden and his flopping attempts..

  9. canehouse - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    This was a grind out type of win for the HEAT… seen it lots of times with them over the past two seasons. Obviously Tuesday night is going to be huge… To see if Miami can play with the same resolve and intensity being up 2-1. This is throat stepping time!

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