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NBA Finals Heat-Thunder Game 3: LeBron James finally suffocates Kevin Durant in the fourth

Jun 18, 2012, 2:36 AM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat - Game Three

(Before we get started, there is an alternate view point here, one in which Durant was out of his rhythm because he had been benched for the final 5:40 due to picking up his fourth foul, or that he was tentative for the same reason, concerned with drawing an offensive foul. If you choose to believe that Durant picking up those fouls was legitimately what resulted in Durant’s performance, then God Bless You. May the aliens who you wear tinfoil to avoid attacks from be merciful when they subjugate your world. For the rest of us, let’s talk about what happened.)

If LeBron James had dropped this line: 2 of 6 from the field, 0-2 from the line, 1 rebound, 0 assists, 2 turnovers in the fourth quarter of a playoff game, can you imagine the roasting that would occur? The abject demolition of his character? There would be attacks that would make Sherman’s March seem like the Disney parade.

Yet there’s Kevin Durant. Two points in the final five minutes, four in the quarter, a loss, and a 2-1 deficit after Miami’s 91-86 loss in Game 3.

You can thank LeBron.

James took on the task of guarding the NBA’s scoring leader in the fourth quarter, again, and versus the first two game in which Durant was setting records, in Game 3, James frustrated and confounded Durant into a miserable performance that helped the Heat seal the win. It wasn’t the usual NBA kind of defense which is foolish and prideful. There was no “go ahead and catch it, and come at me.” James engaged Durant all over the court. Baseline to baseline, sideline to sideline. Durant would flash for a lob, James was there with him, step for step. Durant would cut to the wing behind a screen, James was right there, somehow avoiding the foul but getting through the screen. Durant was in the post, trying to use his length to get around James (a curious tactic given his strengths). Durant forced him to the baseline, so far he was shooting behind the basket.

James had 4 fourth quarter rebounds. He pursued Durant to the ends of the Earth. Oh, yeah, and he scored 8 points.

He guided him into Chris Bosh for a bock. He forced him out of his positions. He rendered him isolated, stranded on the Isle of LeBron, trying to find his way to the ball, points, to a victory that would not come. If it was thought after Game 1 that Durant was proving himself the best player on the planet with his single-minded offense force, then Games 2 and 3 are LeBron answering with his comprehensive impact. While Durant was struggling to contain James, even before his foul trouble, especially inside, James was putting together a comprehensive effort. He pressure Durant, he bodied and challenged him.

James is on another level. It is of no slight to Durant, who is a better pure offensive player, despite LeBron outscoring the scoring champ in this series. James through three games has simply been the complete package he’s billed as (outside of the assists). There was no chance for Durant, no sliver of air, and the result was a frustrating and disappointing night.

Durant can rebound from this. He can hit pull-up jumpers over LeBron all day long. He tried to challenge him at the rim, tried to get calls that weren’t coming. He can respond by hitting pull-up j’s over and over in Game 4. But the result is still the same, a 2-1 lead for Miami on the back of their MVP, not their Offensive Player of the Year, but Most Valuable Player, swallowing the young gunslinger alive. Kevin Durant was eclipsed in Game 3. We’ll have to see if he responds with an even brighter shine in Game 4. For now, the edge goes to the King.

  1. p1nch3dloaf - Jun 18, 2012 at 3:27 AM

    Durant got manhandled, his confidence shakened…I hope LeBully leaves him alone…otherwise, chOklahoma’s going to have a good idea of what the Heap felt like last year.

    • teamobijuan - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:22 AM

      Use less nicknames in future postings.

  2. sasquash20 - Jun 18, 2012 at 3:58 AM

    I can’t dog James as much as I like to dog him, he has been great. That being said I wish the refs would stop putting their finger prints on this series. Let these guys play and call it fair for both teams. Let the best team win it on their skill, team work, defense, and intensity. Not by calling tickey-tac fouls one way. One play Wade didn’t even get touched and they called the foul. James elbowed Harding twice on a drive and Harding gets called for the foul. I just don’t think the refs should be deciding a game. This could be a great series if they call it fair.

    • heat256 - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:19 AM

      I have a feeling your idea of fair is OKC getting the majority of the calls and Wade and James fouling out in the 1st quarter. The games are called fair. We as fans may not always be happy with the calls, but that’s how it goes. Want to change it? Go become a referee. I am sure you’ll love being called out by the uninformed, unintelligent masses constantly as much as they do. I can bitch about the calls that I felt went against the Heat, but I know better because I do see they get the benefit of some calls too. So it pretty much evens out, as it should. Refs didn’t make OKC miss a lot of free throws they normally make, nor did the refs stop them from going into the paint. OKC lost, MIA beat them. Let’s move on the Gmae 4.

    • knightrider1755 - Jun 18, 2012 at 10:51 AM

      It’s amusing to see how you are pointing out the refs’ behavior as though they were the reason for OKC’s loss. OKC was inept from top to bottom from the third quarter to the end. Durant got schooled by Lebron, Westbrook missed key shots, Harden went 2 for 10, and the Thunder committed a batch of turnovers to nail their own fate. You are missing the game entirely if you are focusing all of your attention on what the refs are doing and not watching the plays on the court. As a native NYer I know all to well how the refs bashing thing works. Knicks fans have been using it forever, it seems, to explain why the Knicks haven’t won a championship in the last 40 years.

  3. riles1008 - Jun 18, 2012 at 4:15 AM

    This article has some terrible grammar.

    • helixro14 - Jun 18, 2012 at 8:53 AM

      wtf, man, do you go from one Matt Moore article to another, criticizing his writing? Are you on some vendetta? or were you his English teacher in high school?

      • heat256 - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:15 AM

        When you are paid to write on a major sports site, utilizing proper grammar and spelling is required. Otherwise you look incompetent. Perhaps you can’t see that because that is the norm for you?

      • ras1tafari - Jun 18, 2012 at 10:42 AM

        heat- That’s not the point. “riles” sure as s–t isn’t getting paid to review the grammar content of blogs, so why bother posting those comments? It’s not like anyone cares other than Riles, and maybe….the author.

      • heat256 - Jun 18, 2012 at 11:45 AM

        On the contrary, it is the point. This is why our educational system is failing and the pride of doing a good job is lost. The editor is supposed to catch errors and make sure they are presented them in a clear, readable manner. Is it a major deal in the grand sceheme of things? I’d lean towards it not being so. But if you read article after article that looks sloppy, it reflects poorly on the staff at PBT who puts it out. Perhaps it’s because I have a degree in English that I do notice those things too and it frustrqates me. But I’d rather talk about the game than this. Great win MIA. Two more!!

      • heat256 - Jun 18, 2012 at 11:46 AM

        Correction: “scheme”. Maybe I need a job at PBT.

  4. jh4prez - Jun 18, 2012 at 4:29 AM

    Great article.great read.

  5. mrpostman985 - Jun 18, 2012 at 7:00 AM

    Wow!!! Wat game were u watching ? Yes Durant didn’t have a monster 4th qtr but it surely wasn’t because of lebron defense! I saw several durant three pointers that he usually makes spin in and out the rim! I saw Durant repeatedly drive by lebron but da out standing help defense of Bosh is Wat saved lebron! Okc needs a shooter to space out bosh the same way Miami did with bosh against Boston !! But expect okc to bounce back in game 4!!! # team Lakers

  6. truthhurtstoo - Jun 18, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    Wilting right in front of our eyes. Question is, do they win another game?

    • scalfor3 - Jun 18, 2012 at 11:07 AM

      lets not over react. okc should’ve won but beat themselves with sloppy play, missed FTs etc. i wouldn’t be surprised if they win tomorrow and even it up.

  7. dgbk - Jun 18, 2012 at 7:58 AM

    suffocate?? Lebron D has been decent/good but KD foul trouble has cost him more than anyone guarding him… He has been less agressive and seem out of sync at times…. I never seen a wing superstar avg 4 fouls per game in a finals… Lebron is agressive on def and offense (lots of push offs) but two games with gettin only one foul in the finals seems odd for style of play. Lebron is not settling for jumpers this yr…

    Durant last two games 10 total fouls Durant total free throws shot 10…. Im not into thinkin anything is fixed by the refs or nba but you cant deny facts that things are being called differently… i find it hard to accept the shooter is fouling more than the aggressive slasher.

  8. acdc363 - Jun 18, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    “…after Miami’s 91-86 loss in Game 3.

    You can thank LeBron.”

    If only this were true.

    • florida727 - Jun 18, 2012 at 11:13 AM

      Not sure why all the thumbs-downs on your post #acdc.

      Doesn’t anybody proofread before posting an article anymore?

      As far as the refereeing goes, you’re delusional if you don’t think if affects the outcome of games. And no, I’m not a Heat hater. Same thing applies against them too. I know high school referees that are more consistent than these NBA clowns. They’re embarrassing the profession. I have a friend who years back won the Naismith Award as the top official in women’s college basketball. He told me: “the best compliment I ever got was from Pat Summitt; after a game, she told me she didn’t even know I was on the court.”

  9. paulhargis53 - Jun 18, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    OKC in 6.

  10. mikejd12 - Jun 18, 2012 at 8:14 AM

    Sasquatch, don’t even try it! Miami in all games has had horrible calls against them. Don’t make me go through my list

  11. hscribner - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    Weren’t the heat up 2-1 last year?

    • edweird0 - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:51 AM

      Yeah, but you clearly haven’t been watching this series if you’re trying to imply that it’s the same as last year.

      • hscribner - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:59 AM

        That’s not what I’m implying.

        Just saying OKC isn’t out of it yet. A 2-1 lead can turnaround quickly.

    • eddiecrash1976 - Jun 18, 2012 at 11:28 AM

      Um didnt the thunder lose in the playoffs last year? So whats your point? If the Heat lost three in a row last year then the Thunder can lose a playoff series like last year? What’s your point? At least last year was the first year that Wade, Lebron and Bosh played together and they still made it to the finals. How many years have Durrant, Westbrook and Harden been together? If you want to compare last year it seems to me that the Heat had a more successful season and by the looks of it this year as well. Chew on that for a while.

      • hscribner - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:18 PM

        “That’s not what I’m implying.

        Just saying OKC isn’t out of it yet. A 2-1 lead can turnaround quickly.”

    • canehouse - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:07 PM

      yea we were up 2-1 last year… however we were up with 2 more games to play in dallas… I like our chances at home. But you’re right the Thunder are very cpable of turning the series around.

  12. dikshuttle - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    Suk it, Moore.

    Complaining about NBA officiating is like complaining about the wind – WHILE YOU’RE PISSING IN IT. It’s a non-issue. And I wouldn’t necessarily say that Durant is the better O player, though the argument certainly can be made. Bottom line, you don’t know ’cause Lebron spends more time doing other things. If Lebron focused only on O, it’s possible he could be better.

    One thing I did notice about Durant, he seems to line up his shot while he’s moving. If you go to cover him on the shot, it’s too late. You could see that on Wade’s “too short” but exellent D. Wade was in his face, but that didn’t matter. I guess that’s why Lebron’s D payed off this game. It was persisten enough to weaken Durant’s approach.

  13. scalfor3 - Jun 18, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    “James was right there, somehow avoiding the foul”

    gee i wonder how? lebron is one of the most physical players in the league, but plays 44 minutes and gets whistled for 1 foul. lebron has been allowed to mug durant away from the ball. I would be ok with it if durant wasnt in foul trouble for ticky tack stuff on the other end.

    to be clear im not saying the refs are why okc lost, they had far too many missed FTs and turnovers to win on the road. but theres been a clear double standard so far for the two “superstars” in the series

    • bougin89 - Jun 18, 2012 at 3:43 PM

      scalfor3…this is just it. I like watching good, physical defense but you cannot call weak fouls on Durant if you don’t call the others. Take away the 3 horribly ticky tacky calls on Durant and this is a non issue. Does OKC win maybe not, but the best player in the first two games is on the court at the end of the 3rd quarter when the heat made their devastating run.

  14. Miami Heat Devotion - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    check out my recap

  15. 1historian - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    FYI – I am not a fan of LeBron James.

    That being said – when he wants to be he’s the best ever – better than Magic, Bird, M.J. – anybody. The trouble is that he doesn’t bring it every night. When he DOES bring it there is no one who can stop him.

    I repeat – I am NOT a fan of LeBron James.

  16. leonhart55 - Jun 18, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    So what about the other three quarters when he was baking Lebron. Durant missed shots he normally makes and if YOU think that 5 fouls and numerous minutes spent on the bench didn’t have something to do with that then YOU are the one who’s crazy. Durant makes those attempts then all the sudden the D isn’t so great just like when Durant was blowing by him for dunks, layups, and even banged a three in his face BEFORE 4 fouls took him to the bench. Get real.

  17. reddolfan66 - Jun 18, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    Defense wins championship!!!

  18. tundragator - Jun 19, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    Why are we ignoring the other three quarters (and the other two games) when Durant was lighting it up? Lebron was guarding him for much of that time as well. Also, trying to liken someone thinking that Lebron being called for ONE FOUL to believing aliens are after your mind is specious. How does Lebron get one foul while Durant gets five?!?! Are we forgetting that Lebron got away with mugging KD at the end of game two? It’s been apparent for years that Lebron plays with a different set of rules than other players, and it can’t simply be explained by super-star rules. At some point, someone needs to admit that the NBA is pushing the Lebron brand for all their worth and they’re willing to massage some things to make it happen.

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