Notes from Game 3 of the NBA Finals
Another come back attempt by the Oklahoma City Thunder was a little too late in Game 3 of the NBA Final, as they lost to LeBron James’ Miami Heat team 91-85.
Just like in game two, the Thunder made another furious rally in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, but came up short as the Heat hit their free throws to take a 2-1 lead.
While the Heat had their struggles in the fourth quarter, as they turned the ball on numerous key possessions, the simple stat line of the game was this: they made 31-35 free throws compared to 15-24 for the Thunder.
Here are three reasons why the Heat won Game 3, despite shooting 30 percent from the floor, and why the Thunder are the ones outside looking in.
This stat line can not be ignored as it proved to be the key in how the Heat won Game 2. The simple fact is both teams played outstanding on defense. Both of these teams showcase possibly two of the top NBA players in the game today in LeBron James and Kevin Durant. When the offense is struggling, the best way to get easy points is by shooting free throws.
The Thunder, who are the best free throw shooting team coming into these NBA Finals, chocked big time as they missed nine free throws total. The Thunder lost by six points, and in the end it was the Thunder team that couldn’t finish and not James.
As James led the Heat with 29 points, Dwayne Wade has finally woken up in these past two games to score 25 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in Game 3. It is amazing to see how deadly Wade can be when he stays aggressive and plays up to his reputation. Wade’s impact goes far beyond just being able to score and create his own shots, but he can be a difference maker in all aspects of the game.
In Games 2 and 3, Wade showed why he was the 2006 NBA Finals MVP, as he became a playmaker. On defense, instead of waiting for Durant or Russel Westbrook to make the first move, it has been Wade making the first move and really challenging the young stars of this Thunder team.
For the Thunder, Westbrook, who scored 19 points and 4 assists in Game 3, has really struggled with his shot as of late. Not only has Westbrook been out of rhythm, but his shot selection has also come into question. Instead of driving aggressively to the hoop, Westbrook would settle for a jumper and vice-versa.
Credit the Heat’s defense for clamping down on Westbrook, but no team can really slow down this type of player. When Westbrook is confident and attacking on all cylinders, even the best defensive teams will have no answers for what he brings to the game. Westbrook needs to continue to trust his instincts, and let the game come to him rather than forcing things against a very good defensive team in the Heat.
For the Heat, coach Eric Spoelstra can sleep better at night, knowing that two players on his team outside of James and Wade, has really stepped up their game. These last two wins have a lot to do with the exceptional plays by Chris Bosh and Shane Battier. Battier has simply been amazing, as he somehow found a way to turn on the “light-switch” on his 3-point shooting spree.
As great as Battier has been playing, this Heat team has been much better mainly because of Bosh’s play inside. Even though Bosh only scored 10 points in Game 3, he grabbed 11 rebounds and had two key blocks down the stretch. How many times have we seen Bosh keep a play alive with his hustle on the glass in grabbing that offensive rebound. Game 3 showed that Bosh is crucial, and he showed that he can play some defense as well.
For the Thunder, it has been very inconsistent, specifically for James Harden. He scored only nine points, which is a huge disappointment because Harden is a much better play than what we have seen so far in these playoffs. Outside of game two, he has really struggled in both his shots and free throw shooting as well. On the court, Harden has been bottled up as the Heat are giving no breathing room to the 6th man of the year.
If the Thunder wants to have any chance at all in evening this series come Tuesday night, they will need Harden to start playing some grown men basketball.
As both teams prepare for what is going to be a very crucial and pivotal Game 4, one thing is for certain. This game will define what these two teams are made of, and whether or not the Thunder are ready to be in the spotlight and fight back in these NBA Finals.