For the third straight game, we all got treated to some epic ballin’. The Heat and Thunder locked horns in a game that featured at least 10 lead changes and lots of tough bumps and spurts from both teams. In the end, it was the Heat, playing at home, that came out on top with a gritty 91-85 victory.
Game 4 is on Wednesday—a must-win for the Thunder if they want to stop the Heat from gaining any more momentum. Expect things to get even tighter from here on out. Before that, here are our thoughts on Game 3.
Fourth Quarter Fumble Fest
The Heat scored at will inside early on, but the Thunder hung on, and prevented a repeat of their horrific 18-2 start in Game 2. Yes, it was still the Heat that struck first, and largely maintained control throughout the early goings, yet when the halftime buzzer sounded, a mere point separated the two teams, 47-46.
When play resumed, the potent OKC offense made its run, opening up a ten-point lead—the largest in the game. Then KD went out after picking up his fourth foul midway through the third, which turned out to be a real big deal. Miami returned fire, and stole the lead again, 69-67, at the end of three.
The theme for this game was this: hellacious defense. And it was none more apparent than in the fourth. It boiled down to who could make more stops, who could grit their teeth and make a play for their team, and most of all, who could take care of the ball. Blame it on the defense or merely on pressure; everyone seemed to be suffering an alarming case of the fumbles, the superstars included. Durant and Wade had 5 turnovers total, Lebron had 4, and Harden, and Westbrook combined for 4 as well.
Yet the worst came from Sefolosha. Clock down to less than a minute, and his team down by just four, he threw an almost unforced, errant pass right into the hands of Wade. Wade was then fouled, and sank two free throws, effectively sealing the game, and in the process redeeming himself of an earlier turnover which gave OKC a real chance at stealing this game.
The series is so tight that a single turnover could bear such heavy consequences. The big question: are the Thunder still too young to be able to keep it together when crunch time comes?
As mentioned above, Durant got into foul trouble. Again. And OKC paid dearly for it. At this point, OKC should be thinking of giving Durant an easier assignment. That’s a tough pill to swallow for someone who always wants to man up against the team’s opposing superstar, but it might be for the team’s sake. Lebron is taking it to KD aggressively, hence the fouls, and KD’s too valuable of an offensive asset to lose during critical stretches.
Grin and bear it
Dwyane Wade was off the mark again tonight, shooting just 8-for-22, and coughing up the ball during one crucial possession in the fourth. What’s good though is that he kept forcing the issue, which led to his being rewarded with 11 free throws—the most in this game.
Thunder stalwart Thabo Sefolosha was a defensive superstar, and fully accepted the challenge of guarding both Lebron and Wade. Yet if not for his costly, costly late-game turnover we mentioned above, OKC still had a real chance. He shot his team in the foot; there’s no other way to put it. Thabo’s the kind of player who won’t take this sitting down though, so we expect him to return in the next game, looking to make a huge contribution.
With the pressure mounting, OKC’s showing some real signs of their lack of Finals experience.
Bosh and the Bearded One
Bosh and Harden are the third most important cogs on their respective teams. In this game, it was Bosh—in spite of the ugly shooting and a case of the “butterfingers”—who made more impact with ball tips and rebounds. Harden was ineffectual, scoring just 9 points, and missing all four of his three-point attempts.
What to expect in Game 4
A Durant that will be conscious of his fouls. A Lebron who will continue to pound it inside. An angry Westbrook who’ll attempt to match Lebron’s inside attacks. Fewer turnovers. And Perkins going full-Hulk! Perkins Smash!