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Thunder let Game 3 get away in NBA Finals after Miami gave them multiple chances

Jun 18, 2012, 12:01 AM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat - Game Three Getty Images

The Oklahoma City Thunder have shown all season that they’re a tough team to beat, but their youth and relative inexperience may have finally caught up to them on Sunday night.

The Thunder, playing their first game as the away team in the NBA Finals, looked like they might be on the way to running the Miami Heat right out of their own building at one point in the third quarter, but they were unable to execute down the stretch and lost 91-85 as Miami took a 2-1 series lead.

Miami entered halftime with a contentious one-point lead, but the Thunder — a team full of young players without the vaunted “playoff experience” — came out of the locker room looking like they were well on their way to avenging the loss they suffered on their homecourt in Game 2 of the series. Thanks in large part to Kevin Durant, who scored eight of the Thunder’s 14 points to begin the second half, Oklahoma City began the second half with valuable momentum and an eventual double-digit lead with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Unfortunately for OKC that lead wouldn’t last, though, as Durant took a seat on the bench after picking up his fourth foul — a foul which would also wind up taking the wind out of the Oklahoma City’s sails. With Durant on the bench due to foul trouble, Russell Westbrook subbed out a bit later to apparently get some rest and James Harden once again inexplicably ineffective on the offensive end, Miami turned the tides to take a 69-67 lead with 12 minutes left to play.

Durant returned to the court for the start of the fourth quarter and, for awhile, the Thunder again looked like they might cause another photo-finish in the Finals as the momentum shifted back and forth throughout the final stanza. In fact, Oklahoma City’s finest looked like they might even be able to come out as victors when they caught lighting in a bottle en route to a 6-0 run, cutting a seven-point Miami lead down to just one with 1:30 left on the game clock. LeBron James set up Chris Bosh in the post, resulting in a pair of free-throws and an end to the Thunder run, but the momentum had yet to shift considering the Thunder were still down just three — and the NBA’s best scorer was still in the game despite his trouble with fouls.

Durant didn’t score on a drive around James on the next possession, but the momentum still stuck when LeBron bricked a fadeaway on the ensuing possession. Through this point, it still seemed as though the Thunder would  (at least) end up tying the game considering they had the ball and were down just three points with 45 seconds remaining. More mistakes manifested on the next couple of possessions, though, as Russell Westbrook was unable to connect on a wide-open three and then James Harden committed a bad foul after allowing 14 seconds to come off of the clock, giftng King James a pair of free-throws and Miami a six-point lead.

Even then, though, the Thunder still showed signs of life … especially when one remembers the incredible almost-comeback the Thunder pulled off to end the second game of the series. It apparently wasn’t meant to be once again for OKC on Sunday night, however, because Thabo Sefolosha and Westbrook suffered a communication error of epic proportions that ended in a turnover and allowed Miami to hammer the final nail in to the coffin.

It’s tough to put the blame on the Thunder considering how well the Heat, sans Dwyane Wade — it wasn’t as though Miami was outright handing Durant and Co. the keys to victory — but a young team like Oklahoma City needs to take advantage of every opportunity that opens up in the NBA Finals. They were unable to do so again on Sunday night, though, and now find themselves in a 2-1 hole and an uphill battle considering they’ll need to win one of the next two games in Miami.

  1. angulocarlos1 - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:08 AM

    Westbrook shot less , meaning less open looks for Durant, who took his lowest amount of shots in the series. Because Westbrook wasn’t aggressive, there were less open players , so his assists came down.AS A HEAT FAN , I WANT TO THANK THE MEDIA FOR BULLYING WESTBROOK AND CHANGING THE POTENT THUNDER OFFENSE. :D

  2. 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:15 AM

    OKC is so freaking scary. We’re not going to beat them talent vs. talent. Going to have to beat them with Heart, with Want-to, with character, with toughness, with all the things you earn over time and with battles both won and lost.

    Call it an ugly win. Call in a grind out win. It was a Great Win.

    And it was win #14

    • cantonbound13 - Jun 18, 2012 at 11:32 AM

      ’72, you’re team is so close yet again. Hope they don’t choke for a second straight season. That would suck.

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 18, 2012 at 5:54 PM

        Just keep stuffing 20s into “Jasmine”‘s garter. Someone’s got to put her through medical school. After all, she’s only doing this for her kid.

      • cantonbound13 - Jun 19, 2012 at 2:08 PM

        A mind is a terrible thing to waste. I’d rather spend my entertainment money on Jasmine than the “Chokin’ One”

  3. Mr. Wright 212 - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:16 AM

    lmao I’m not even gonna say it.

    • rodgersmvp - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:20 AM

      Because it makes no sense?

      • Mr. Wright 212 - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:36 AM

        Because even casual fans see it.

    • edweird0 - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:32 AM

      See that you’re a pathetic loser?

      • southbeachtalent - Jun 18, 2012 at 10:29 AM

        pretty much..

  4. mikejd12 - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:19 AM

    Where’s all the haters at?

    • duane888 - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:48 AM

      Crying in their beer.

  5. labratre - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:27 AM

    Only a few post! Where’s the haters!

  6. miamatt - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:42 AM

    Free throw efficiency was critical for Miami.

    I like the Heat’s fight and rebounding in end game situations.

    Two to go.

  7. duane888 - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:47 AM

    This article mentions OKC’s ineffective offense. How about give some credit to the Heat defense??

    Offense is for show, defense wins Championships !!

  8. isujames - Jun 18, 2012 at 1:04 AM

    HEAT ALL DAY!!!!!!

  9. seahawksbmx - Jun 18, 2012 at 1:24 AM

    Very end of third paragraph – that should say “3rd” quarter, not 4th.

  10. dirtybird2020 - Jun 18, 2012 at 1:33 AM

    You all blow! Ref job all the way!

    • edweird0 - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:33 AM

      Whatever helps you sleep at night!

  11. md23rewlz - Jun 18, 2012 at 3:11 AM

    OKC really really really needs Harden to get his game together. Durant can’t be expected to be everything for every second of the game.

  12. lucky5934 - Jun 18, 2012 at 5:07 AM

    I still hate Lebron. Even if the Heat win a title, it is still tainted because he needed to be with two of the best in the game to get it done. And as good as Lebron has been in this series, Battier is difference maker.

    • edweird0 - Jun 18, 2012 at 11:23 AM

      So what you’re saying is that if Durant wins a championship it will have been tainted by the fact that he played with westbrook and harden?

      • minnesota32 - Jun 18, 2012 at 1:32 PM

        We can ignore what he said about Battier being the difference maker. Definitely a LOL moment.

      • lucky5934 - Jun 19, 2012 at 8:16 AM

        Edweird0,

        I can see where you get your faulty logic through recognizing that both teams have three stars. The answer to your question is no as Harden, Westbrook, and Durant were all drafted by the Thunder. Not the same at all. James and Bosh made a grand spectacle to go and sign with Wade and take (What they thought anyway) was the road to an easy championship. I will never compare LBJ to the likes of Jordan, Magic, Bird, etc.. because he had to take the easy way out. He couldn’t will his way to a championship in Cleveland. Win or lose James is not in the same “Class” as those superstars. And for those who claim James didn’t have talent around him in Cleveland let me remind you of the following facts. Cleveland had the leagues best record in his final two seasons in Cleveland. In fact the 2008-2009 team was 39-2 at home. Almost tying the record of the 1985-1986 Boston Celtics. He made the Eastern conference finals twice, and the NBA Finals once. They had talent. But he choked in the playoffs and then blamed others for his failures. In fact, after his Game 6 loss to the Magic in 2009, he walked off the court without shaking hands. He later admitted, “It’s hard for me to congratulate somebody after you just lose to them, I’m a winner. It’s not being a poor sport or anything like that. If somebody beats you up, you’re not going to congratulate them. … I’m a competitor. That’s what I do. It doesn’t make sense for me to go over and shake somebody’s hand.” The same thing we just blasted Rondo and Garnett for a couple of weeks ago. James is an immature and spoiled person. I will never root for him nor respect him as a person.

        Minnesota32,

        You obviously have not been paying attention to Battier’s contributions, so let me break it down for you. Battier is 13-17 with three pointers in the first three games that is included in his 43 points. He has been the consistent 4th scorer that the Heat have needed (and didn’t have last year), meanwhile the Thunder are still looking for consistency from people outside Durant and Westbrook. But to cement my point, consider the lanes that Lebron and Wade are driving in. They are not only a result of Bosh drawing defenders away from the paint with his outside shooting, but due to Battier keeping spreading out the defense with his 3pt accuracy. Thus providing James and Wade the opportunity to beat their man one on one when driving the lane. In last year’s finals, the only true shooter outside of James to hit the three was Chalmers, which wasn’t enough and thus caused the defense to sit back and let James beat them from the outside. Which he didn’t. So yes, Battier has been the difference this year.

  13. gmsingh - Jun 18, 2012 at 7:05 AM

    And the trips to the foul line tell the whole story yet again. The trophy really should go to the refs when you think about it.

    • blueintown - Jun 18, 2012 at 8:47 AM

      Stiiiiiill watching.

      • gmsingh - Jun 19, 2012 at 6:45 AM

        Nope. Want to guess again, brainiac?

      • blueintown - Jun 19, 2012 at 7:27 AM

        Just pretending you know what happened then? Enjoy the game tonight.

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

      Still running with that conspiracy theory? Youre just making yourself look like an idiot but hey, thanks for making these wins so much more enjoyable. I love to see heat haters cry and reach for excuses.

      • gmsingh - Jun 19, 2012 at 6:45 AM

        Every single sports show on radio and TV yesterday were talking about discrepancies in the foul calling. Honestly, I find it funny when I encounter guy like you that just have no clue what is going on. Do you manage to see cars coming at you when you drive down the street?

    • bougin89 - Jun 18, 2012 at 11:25 AM

      I think some calls were inconsistent but the Thunder still have to make their free throws.

      • gmsingh - Jun 19, 2012 at 6:43 AM

        Agreed. But LeBron with one foul the whole game? Really? How long will people go along with this thinly veiled ruse?

  14. truthhurtstoo - Jun 18, 2012 at 7:31 AM

    OKC is wilting away. Too much defense, Lebron and Co. If they can’t find a way to win the next one… get ready for the parade!
    P.S. can’t blame the “refs” for OKC not hitting their free throws… L

  15. djigel - Jun 18, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    Durant has to learn how to stay out of foul trouble for the Thunder to be successful. That said, he has been called for some soft fouls, especially in game 3. The “jab step” call on him v Wade is the same shoulder LeBron gives with no call. I don’t have an issue with him doing it, but there has to be consistency.

    Not quite sure why they also took out Westbrook in the same stretch – allowing Miami to get James back in and finish off a tear at the end of the third. The game hinged there. If the Thunder keep it together, they can go up 15 headed into the fourth, which the way the game was going, was unsurmountable. Bottom line is, however, the didn’t. Call it bad coaching from Brooks, bad officiating for Durant’s soft fouls, OKCs sudden inability to hit FTs and Miami’s lights out FT shooting, poor play from OKC or great play from the heat….. it is what it is.

    It is only 2-1 and there is a lot left of the series. OKC has been in every game. The Heat have been in every game. The series will go at least 6 if not 7 and it is still a coin flip as to who will win. Even though ESPN will have the fantastic end of the world for OKC and Miami has ascended from heaven reporting, there is a game 4 on Tuesday that will be another good one.

    • scalfor3 - Jun 18, 2012 at 10:56 AM

      they took westbrook out because of a sequence of four possessions in a row. westbrook miss, westbrook miss, westbrook miss, westbrook offensive foul. one of them came when okc got the switch they wanted (wade on durant) and westbrook ignored it and tried to take lebron off the dribble. taking westbrook out was the right move, but harden unfortunately didnt step up

  16. bougin89 - Jun 18, 2012 at 8:42 AM

    The offensive foul called on Durant while he was being guarded by Wade and his defensive foul on Wade were both pretty horrible calls and once Durant picked up his 4th the momentum totally swung to Miami’s favor. When watching all of the other calls/non calls its hard to watch Durant pick up those 2 without feeling frustrated.

    • ceschatz - Jun 18, 2012 at 10:06 AM

      So did the refs force him to miss his free throws also?

      • scalfor3 - Jun 18, 2012 at 10:57 AM

        no, but theres no denying that only one of the superstars in the series has gotten the superstar treatment from the refs

      • bougin89 - Jun 18, 2012 at 11:22 AM

        No, Durant and the rest of the Thunder missed too many free throws…but those fouls forced him to the bench when the biggest swing of the game happened. Both of those fouls should be no calls, let the players play. Wade and Lebron were playing very physical on Durant(and thats the kind of basketball I like/miss) but then to call such ticky tacky calls on Durant? Very hard to watch.

  17. heat256 - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    Ah, back to the old “it’s the refs” line. How about OKC doesn’t go to the rim to get those calls? Nah, because that would be blaming them and crediting the Heat, and God forbid that happens. Bottom line: MIA hit their free throws, and OKC didn’t. But that’s the refs fault. “Refs made Harden shoot 2-10″!!! “Refs Made Durant miss two free throws”!! “It’s a conspiracy”!! It must be real hard for some of you to live life and make sure when things go wrong for you, you have someone to blame.

    • edweird0 - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:37 AM

      It was the refs fault sefaloshas turned it over in crunch time!

    • scalfor3 - Jun 18, 2012 at 10:59 AM

      if lebron was in foul trouble for the same plays that durant has been, miami fans would be screaming. its not the refs fault okc lost, but the refs certainly didnt do them any favors

      • heat256 - Jun 18, 2012 at 12:00 PM

        I have no problem with people disagreeing with some of the calls. That’s what fans do. But to whine “the refs are giving it to Miami” is just lame and stale. Why weren’t they “given” the title last year? It makes no sense. When all you hear when OKC wins there isn’t a ref issue but when they lose it always is, it always is the refs handing the game over. That’s the issue. You have uninformed idiots like Cantonbound13 (and to have him use the number of the great Dan Marino is blasphemy) who say the NBA is fixed. It’s people like that we can do without. There are a number of reasons OKC lost. The refs “screwing” them over is way down the list. When people can go over those reasons first in an intelligent manner, we can talk about the refereeing.

  18. teamobijuan - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    Pass the ball, Harden. J.F.C.

  19. cantonbound13 - Jun 18, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    Shocking the refs called Durant for a 4th foul after they built a 10 point lead. So obvious the NBA is fixed.

    • md23rewlz - Jun 18, 2012 at 1:17 PM

      And they also kicked Westbrook on the shin when he tried to take that game-tying three late. And threw salt in Harden’s eyes when he did…well…pretty much anything. If they’re fixing it, they’re doing a pretty crappy job. OKC had a million chances to win this game or force it to overtime. The reasons the Thunder have lost the last two games are obvious, tangible ones. Not some nefarious referee fix.

  20. dirtybird2020 - Jun 18, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    Heat fans still blow! Ref job all the way, i want to see lbj’s acl on a platter!! Id feed that dog to my dogs! Kissing his mom at half-time is like kissing delonte wests 3rd leg!

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