After another slow start, it was the Thunder who built a double-digit third-quarter lead, only to see it slip away. And for the second straight contest, Oklahoma City’s fourth-quarter rally came up short.
LeBron James was a force on both ends, as he has been all series, and his fourth-quarter defense on Kevin Durant helped the Heat seal the win. But Durant’s late offensive struggles were just one of the troubling signs for the Thunder in Game 3. From missed free throws to a failure to get out and run, Oklahoma City came up short in several key areas.
Here’s a by the numbers look at Game 3.
15 for 24: The Thunder shot just 62.5 percent from the free throw line — well below their season average of 80 percent — including 10 for 17 in the second half. The Heat, meanwhile, shot 88.6 percent (31-35). Once again, Miami attempted more free throws, but if the Thunder didn’t meltdown at the line, it wouldn’t have been launching off-balance threes in the final seconds.
9: The number of points scored by sixth man of the year James Harden and veteran Shane Battier. It was another rough night for Harden who made only 2 of 10 shots and went 0 for 4 from three-point range. He did contribute elsewhere (six assists, six rebounds, two steals), but Harden has now been held to less than 10 points in two of three games. Meantime Battier had another big game for Miami. He hit two three-pointers, made all three free throws after getting fouled on another attempt and drew a key charge on Russell Westbrook late in the game. If he continues to match Harden’s productivity, the Thunder is in trouble.
19-12: For the first time this series, the Heat outscored Oklahoma City in transition. Despite a few lapses, Miami showed an increased determination to get back to prevent easy baskets and forced the Thunder to play in the half-court set, where it struggled to get good looks down the stretch. Oklahoma City outscored Miami 24-5 in fast-break points in Game 1.
9-4: The fourth quarter struggles of LeBron James continue to be a hot discussion topic, but the MVP outscored the league’s scoring champion by five points in the final period on Sunday night. More importantly, James drove the ball to the basket where he converted a pair of layups and made his free throws when he was fouled. He also pulled down four of his game-high 14 rebounds in the fourth quarter. Durant was just 2 for 5 from the field and missed both his free throws.
The one-on-one matchup between James and Durant is only one piece of the puzzle, and fourth-quarter execution remains the biggest deciding factor in a series destined for several more close games. But over the past two contests, the Heat has found a way to force its preferred style of play onto Oklahoma City, while the Thunder is finding itself stuck in the half-court set.
What needs to change in Game 4 for the Thunder to even the series?
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