Through the first two games of the 2012 NBA Finals and for the entire first three rounds of the NBA playoffs, the Oklahoma City Thunder looked like a team that has gone through every post season ups and downs for 4 or more years. In the first round against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. The Thunder fought valiantly and executed down the stretch and would end up dominating the series. The following round the Thunder faced Kobe Bryant and the championship-tested Los Angeles Lakers. Late game execution and clutch plays from Kevin Durant and great interior defense pulled the Thunder out of the 2nd round and into the Western Conference Finals. Going up against the playoff-tested, most consistent post season franchise in the last 13 years, and somewhat revived #1 seeded San Antonio Spurs, who were undefeated through the first two rounds, the young Thunder looked like they had no shot at all. In the first two games, the Thunder played solid but were just facing a better team in the Spurs. However, the next four games, the Thunder showed up and played to near perfection against the Spurs. And despite, falling way behind the Thunder executed when it was most necessary.
In critical moments of Game 3 of the 2012 NBA Finals, the Thunder didn’t do any of that.The Thunder looked like and played like a young team most of us would expect them to play at. Turning the ball over, taking bad shots, playing hero basketball, and overall not playing smart and with mental toughness. The first half, however, didn’t look so bad compared to the first two games of the NBA Finals. In fact, in Game 3 on the road in Miami, the Thunder took their first lead in a first half in the 2012 NBA Finals. Wow. The Thunder didn’t necessarily need to take the lead or dominate the game, but as long as they were close to the Heat, they had a good shot of getting home court advantage back. In the second half, the Thunder started to attack as they managed to take a 10 point lead even with Kevin Durant sitting down with 5 fouls in the 3rd quarter. However, nearing the end of the 3rd quarter, the Heat dominated and made a run that made them take a 2 point lead into the final quarter.
In the 4th, the game was pretty much any team’s game until LeBron James drove to the basket and finished with a dunk+ a foul from Kevin Durant that gave the Heat an 83-77 lead. And after an extra free throw from LeBron the Heat had a 3 possession lead over the Thunder with under 3:44 to play. Durant, who has been the best 4th quarter player in this year’s NBA Finals, would answer back with a jumpshot which cut the lead to 5. James, however, would respond with authority by attacking the basket and making an easy lay-up for himself. But still, the Thunder would keep fighting back just like the entire NBA playoffs (Game 6 vs Spurs down 18). Perkins would make two clutch freethrows which placed the Heat lead back to 5. And on the ensuing play by the Heat, Dwyane Wade wasn’t even able to bring the ball across half court as defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha picked his pocket and went up for a reverse lay-up cutting the lead to just 3.
Dwyane Wade, who has been awful in this year’s NBA playoffs, would come up empty on the next possession after taking a questionable jumpshot which would end up to a fastbreak for the Thunder where Westbrook would pull up and knock down a 17-foot jumpshot to get the Thunder within one point with 1:30 left in the game. The Thunder were on a run, however, that was the last time the Thunder would score a point. And the game would have not been out of control had the Thunder took control of the ball early in the 4th. James Harden, who has been nowhere in Game 3, turned the ball over in back-to-back possessions. And in the final 1:30 the Thunder’s execution was just horrible.Credit to the Heat for playing good defense but the Thunder’s offense was just flat.
Kevin Durant lead the way for the Thunder with 25 points (11-19 shooting), 6 rebounds, but 0 assists, which showed how poorly the Thunder rotated the ball. Russell Westbrook, who was criticized heavily by Magic Johnson, pitched in with 18 points (8-18 shooting), 5 rebounds, but again, just 4 assists. Harden, who was expected to be playing great in the Finals, only had 9 points in the game. Perkins, was the third leading scorer for the Thunder with 10 points.
For the Heat, LeBron James as usual led the way with 29 points (11-23 shooting), 14 rebounds, and 3 assists. Dwyane Wade despite bad 4th quarter play, scored 25 points (8-22 shooting), and dished out 7 assists and grabbed 7 boards as well. Solid game for Dwyane Wade and a good sign of him starting to get back in rhythm. Battier as usual pitched in with his three point shooting as he made 2-2 three pointers. The last member of the Big 3, Chris Bosh, poured in 10 points, 11 rebounds, and had 2 block shots.
Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals will be tomorrow at 9:00 PM ET on ABC.
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