The Oklahoma City Thunder lost Game 3 of the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat 91-85 Sunday night to fall behind 2-1 in the series.
The Thunder continue to leave a lot on the table in this series and have yet to play their best basketball.
Kevin Durant scored 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting in 39 minutes but for the second straight game found himself in foul trouble.
Durant left the game with 5:41 to play in the fourth quarter and OKC leading 60-54. The Thunder would be outscored 15-7 the rest of the quarter.
“Not foul,” Durant said when asked about getting into foul trouble. “I mean, I don’t know. I’m just trying to play aggressive on both ends, and unfortunately I’m getting some fouls called on me, but I’ve got to play through it. Two games in a row, man, so I’ve just got to play smarter next game, and hopefully I don’t get no fouls called.”
Durant came back to start the fourth and would only score four points in the final 12 minutes. He clearly had lost any rhythm he found up to that point.
The referees aren’t totally to blame for the Thunder losing the last two games of this series but it’s hard not to notice them, and that is never a good thing.
In Game 2, Durant had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds when a blatant shooting foul by LeBron James was ignored. In Game 3, Durant did not deserve all four of the fouls called on him.
Durant doesn’t totally help his case though for picking up four fouls. He was actually pretty out of this game in the first half. He wasn’t giving enough effort on defense rotating or boxing out and picked up another stupid foul reaching at LeBron James in transition.
It’s not the whole series but the calls have definitely been an advantage for the Heat thus far.
Scott Brooks did not help his team in Game 3 when Durant got into foul trouble. He took Durant out after his fourth and then took Russell Westbrook out shortly later claiming that is when Westbrook normally gets his rest and he had a few bad possessions.
This was unacceptable. The Thunder were playing without Westbrook and Durant for over four minutes to end the third while the Heat had LeBron and Dwyane Wade on the floor during most of that time.
Westbrook had to be in during that stretch especially with James Harden struggling for most of the night (9 points, 2-for-10 from the field).
It’s the NBA Finals and Brooks is still stuck on trusting “what they’ve done all year” when there’s no time for little mistakes like this. It’s the same thing with him continuing to start Kendrick Perkins.
Perkins played better in Game 3 but it’s still an issue having him in the starting lineup. It eventually was probably a bad thing too that he played so well because it caused Brooks to play him over Serge Ibaka in the fourth quarter.
How is it possible that we are watching a team in the NBA Finals and thinking that two of the five players on the court shouldn’t be there? Shouldn’t this be clear enough already?
That’s what we have with the Thunder. Perkins and Derek Fisher are in the game midway through the fourth quarter while Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha are sitting on the bench. There is no excuse for this. There is no time for rest.
The Thunder have a good enough team to beat the Heat. They could very easily be up 3-0 in this series right now. Instead they’re down 2-1 and the chances of them winning suddenly seem very bleak.
One thing the Thunder have done in every playoff series so far this year is improve the further they have gone on. The Thunder will have to continue this trend to come back and beat the Heat and did show some signs of that in Game 3.
The home team for Games 3, 4 and 5 has won all three of those games just twice since 1985. The Heat would have to become the third team to do so to avoid going back to Oklahoma City.
The Heat were up 2-1 in the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks last year before losing the next three games of the series.
All hope is far from lost for the Thunder.