The Oklahoma City Thunder can start worrying now. After beating the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals they have now lost the last two games and are behind 2-1 in the series.
The Thunder lost Game 3 in Miami 91-85 and really didn’t play a good game at all. The Heat shot very poorly from outside the paint and the Thunder were in great position to steal one on the road.
The Thunder led by 10 points in the third quarter but foul trouble for Kevin Durant helped allow the Heat to come back and close this one out.
Looking ahead to Game 4, the Thunder are going to need to play a lot better starting with…
Kevin Durant – 31.0 PPG, 1.7 APG, 5.7 RPG, .574 FG%, .409 3PT%, .737 FT%
Durant may have had his worst game of the playoffs in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. He scored 25 points and went 11-of-19 from the field but he picked up his fourth foul with 5:41 left in the third quarter and was a mess on defense all night.
The Thunder allowed Miami to get 14 offensive rebounds in the game and Durant was a big reason why. Too many times when a shot went up he showed no interest in boxing out or anything.
Durant is only averaging 5.7 rebounds per game in this series and that is something he really needs to improve upon. With the Thunder playing small so much, Durant needs to be super active on defense and rebounding.
Durant isn’t at his best when he is put in this position as an interior help defender but that’s what we have here in the NBA Finals. He needs to step up in that department or the Thunder are going to have a hard time coming back and winning this series.
Durant may be a little drained from defending LeBron James and having to work so hard to get open on offense. In Game 3, the Thunder tried to isolate Durant a little too much and it became very reminiscent of how the New York Knicks were using Carmelo Anthony against the Heat in the first round.
Durant would work so hard just to get an isolation opportunity against the best defender in basketball and it wore him down. And after working so hard to get the ball, you know you’re going to want to shoot every time and it resulted in stagnant offense for the Thunder.
Durant didn’t have any assists in his 39 minutes of action and that’s never a good sign for the Thunder. You really don’t expect the Thunder to win when Durant has this kind of game but the loss still hurts because they had a great chance to anyway.
Durant was unable to muster up any heroics in the fourth this time though. He scored just four points in the period and had two turnovers. He looked like he lost his rhythm after coming out of the game with his fourth foul.
LeBron James – 30.3 PPG, 4.0 APG, 10.3 RPG, .464 FG%, .222 3PT%, .862 FT%
LeBron had another quiet LeBron game in Game 3. He had 29 points and 14 rebounds and it seemed not too spectacular. That’s LeBron for you.
He came out very aggressive again like Game 2 scoring inside and working hard for offensive rebounds. This was something the Thunder could have prevented simply by matching his intensity but they just didn’t have it that night.
LeBron was probably most important defending Durant. He made him work so hard just to get the ball that it took Durant out of the rest of the game in a way.
It is still amazing how Durant can score one-on-one against LeBron so much. You just never expect anyone to do it that way on LeBron and it just goes to show how talented Durant is.
LeBron again had a few transition buckets where the Thunder didn’t pick him up quickly enough down the floor. LeBron does such a good job of taking what’s given to him and it resulted in a lot of easy buckets for him in Game 3 since the Thunder weren’t playing their best.
Russell Westbrook – 24.3 PPG, 7.3 APG, 7.0 RPG, .412 FG%, .214 3PT%, .778 FT%
Westbrook isn’t going to get the same blame for the Thunder losing Game 2 but he didn’t even play any better.
One of the things that will stick out from Game 3 is Scott Brooks taking Westbrook out at the end of the third and closing the quarter without Westbrook or Durant.
It’s understandable taking Durant out because he had four fouls but that should have meant Westbrook was staying in. The Heat closed out the third 15-3 with the two on the bench and that may very well have lost OKC the game.
Westbrook didn’t end up shooting as much as he did in the first two games and that was unfortunate because the Thunder really could have used him stepping up and having a 30-point game.
Westbrook continues to struggle finishing at the rim and making the best decisions when he is penetrating. He again missed his first three shots of the game which he has done in each game so far in the series.
The Thunder are always at their best when he is aggressive and taking 20-plus shots. He and Durant were both under 20 attempts in Game 3 and it’s hard to imagine them beating the Heat when that is the case.
Dwyane Wade – 22.7 PPG, 6.7 APG, 5.7 RPG, .410 FG%, .000 3PT%, .818 FT%
Wade was very aggressively trying to get his shot in Game 3. He took 22 shots and 11 free throws and didn’t hit a high percentage from the field.
It doesn’t feel like he is a huge concern for the Thunder to contain. He doesn’t feel like the same Wade that could go for 40 on any given night like the past.
Westbrook actually did a pretty good job defending him too which is a good sign for the Thunder going forward in the series.
Wade was most effective as a passer in the pick-and-rolls in the game. He did an excellent job finding the roller to the basket a ton and that really hurt the Thunder.
The Thunder seemed to be playing for the pick-and-pop instead of the roll and the Heat took advantage. We’ll see if the Thunder adjust to this as the series goes on.
James Harden – 11.7 PPG, 3.7 APG, 3.3 RPG, .407 FG%, .333 3PT%, .714 FT%
We’ve seen three games of the NBA Finals and we’re still waiting for James Harden to show up. Harden is far from himself so far against the Heat and that is making things very difficult for the Thunder.
It feels like he hasn’t been able to find where he fits in yet in the series. If he figures it out and starts being himself again it will be great news for the Thunder.
It’s all about getting him going early in the shot clock before the defense is set. He hasn’t gotten a lot of transition opportunities either in the series and that could also help him get going.
Harden has had to guard LeBron a lot in the past two games as well which makes him work that much harder on defense which could also be contributing to his offensive struggles.
He has shown in these playoffs the ability to take over games and the Thunder could really use a game or two like that soon from him.
Chris Bosh – 12.0 PPG, 10.3 RPG, .361 FG%, .250 3PT%, .818 FT%
Bosh has been great for the Heat in these past two games. The energy he has played with and relentless effort getting to loose balls and rebounds has been crucial in the Heat winning.
In Game 3, Bosh was used rolling to the rim a lot more in the pick-and-rolls than just popping and the Thunder had a hard time stopping it.
Bosh will continue to be an important X-factor for the Heat and while at home should produce decently.
One of the biggest issues of this series so far has been the substitution patterns for the Thunder. They are sticking with their main starting five featuring Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka and they continually are getting off to slow starts.
Perkins played well for him in Game 3 and it resulted in him getting 34 minutes while Ibaka played just 22 and sat out the entire fourth.
The Thunder need Ibaka to be their fourth best player to win a title and he’s not that while on the bench in a fourth quarter.
Nick Collison has also lessened his impact on the series since Game 1. He got into foul trouble in Game 3 and needs to avoid that a little more as the series goes on.
The Heat essentially aren’t playing any bigs other than Bosh and Udonis Haslem and it has been working for them. This means the Thunder have an advantage on the offensive glass that they aren’t really taking advantage of.
Shane Battier finally stopped scoring 17 points per game but still had a decent game for Miami in Game 3.
The Thunder clearly made it a point of emphasis to take away the spot-up shooters in Game 3 and it probably contributed to them giving up so many shots inside the paint.
The Heat are making the Thunder scramble to adjust thanks to great outside shooting and it’s really helping them win this series right now.
Miami shot poorly overall from the outside in Game 3 and that’s part of why they didn’t blow the Thunder out.
OKC is getting some production from Derek Fisher as a spot-up shooter but that’s about it. You can count on Fisher to take and sometimes make the big shot but his minutes should be lessened.
Scott Brooks loves playing him big minutes especially when he hits a shot or two. Fisher should be taken out soon after making a few shots because you know once he’s done that, he’ll start missing. It’s not like he’s going to go off for 20 points while you ride the hot hand.
This is a must-win for the Thunder while not so much for the Heat. In these playoffs, the Thunder have always come through in these situations while the Heat have not.
Only twice has the home team in the NBA Finals since 1985 won Games 3, 4 and 5. The Thunder are hardly a candidate for a team to be victim to that.
Game 4 is the one the Thunder will win. This series has seven games written all over it and OKC tying the series at 2-2 is the next step in making that happen.
The Thunder did not play very well in Game 3 and it could give the Heat some false confidence with how they played being enough to give them another win.
The Thunder should play better and if they do, the Heat might not know what hit them.
Tags: Chris Bosh Derek Fisher Dwyane Wade Game 4 James Harden Kendrick Perkins Kevin Durant LeBron James Miami Heat NBA Finals NBA Playoffs Nick Collison Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook Scott Brooks Serge Ibaka Shane Battier Thabo Sefolosha