Thunder may regret missed opportunity
JUN 17, 2012 11:14p ET
It was a bizarro Sunday as the Miami Heat didn't really win Game 3 of the NBA Finals as much as the Thunder lost it, just like Webb Simpson basically was handed the US Open trophy by Jim Furyk.
Sometimes it goes that way. Sometimes it's not how you win, but more how the other guy loses. Because anyone who was flipping channels from the couch, like those of us who didn't make the trip to either coast to watch a Father's Day feast of sports Sunday, saw Furyk come undone and Oklahoma City go from Thunder to blunder.
Kevin Durant never tripped over his shoelaces, but everything else seemed to go wrong in Sunday’s 91-85 loss at Miami. The Heat were bad and the Thunder were worse.
The game and the 2-1 series lead were there for the taking. And while Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he had no complaints about the way his team played, the fans in Oklahoma City sure could have some.
Miami won shooting 38 percent from the field. The Heat missed 19 of 24 shots outside the paint. You have to work really hard to lose to a team that misses that much. And the Thunder did.
Oklahoma City's Big Three of Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden didn't do their part and there wasn't much support. If any of the three goes off, or if the bench players do something — maybe out-rebound the smaller Heat? — the Thunder would have had enough to get past Miami.
LeBron James looked great early and finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds, but no one's sending the game ball to Springfield. Dwyane Wade also cooled off after a hot start and finished 8 for 22 from the field.
Limited by foul trouble again, Durant had 25 points, but he didn't get to the line enough (1 of 4) and wasn't reliable enough (five turnovers). A fourth-quarter star in the first two games, he shot 2 of 6 in the fourth quarter Sunday, missed a pair of free throws and had two turnovers.
Westbrook was 8 of 18 from the field, making him 28 of 68 in the three games. He finished with 19 points, but was a problem midway through the third quarter when he missed shots on two possessions in a row, then turned it over on the next possession. He was replaced by Derek Fisher. Brooks said he took Westbrook out of the game to settle him down.
Meanwhile, Harden came in early as the Thunder got behind in the first quarter, but he was largely ineffective. The NBA's Sixth Man of the Year finished 2 of 10 from the field in 34 minutes. But he did his real damage when he lost his way late in the fourth quarter with a pair of turnovers, both coming with the Thunder down four with less than five minutes to play. Then he lost his mind.
The Thunder didn't need to foul in the closing moments, and with a stop would have provided an opportunity to tie the game. Instead, Harden fouled James 35 feet from the basket with 16 seconds left. James made the second of two free throws, and the Heat iced the game from the line.
The Thunder, the best free-throw shooting team in the league this season, missed 9 of 24 tries Sunday. It's the third game in a row the Thunder have missed seven or more free throws.
Congrats to Durant for not complaining about the officiating. That's commendable. However, he may need to consider making some adjustments. Durant picked up five fouls only three times in the regular season. He now has had five fouls in each of the past two games against the Heat. Lay it on the whistle of referee Joey Crawford, but Durant stepped in late against James for a fifth foul and took himself out of a chance to win this game for the Thunder.
And certainly Crawford didn't force Serge Ibaka and Fisher to commit silly third-quarter fouls on Heat 3-point attempts. Up 65-56 with 3:13 in the third quarter, Ibaka fouled Shane Battier on a 3-pointer. Fisher did the same to James Jones less than 30 seconds later. That's six free points.
Miami coach Eric Spoelstra said his team will do whatever it takes to win and that he knew it was going to be a grind. But he didn't mention anything about watching Oklahoma City melt down.
The Thunder are down 2-1. The good news is it would be hard for Oklahoma City to duplicate its ineffectiveness. The bad news is, it would be hard for Miami to be just as bad, too.