Scary stat for Thunder fans – NBA teams that grab a 3-1 lead in the Finals are 30-0. The Heat put on a foul-shooting clinic Sunday night in Miami, and turnover-prone Oklahoma City wasted a 10-point third quarter lead and lost, 91-85. Miami leads the series 2-1.
After an impressive Game 1 finish by the Thunder at home, they’ve dropped two in a row. In Game 2, LeBron was clutch in the final 90 seconds, and the Heat benefited from a no-call against LeBron (I thought it was a foul) when Kevin Durant could have tied the game in the final 15 seconds.
Game 3 saw the Thunder pull away in the 3rd quarter and take a 7-point lead. Then two things happened that flipped the game:
1) Kevin Durant picked up his 4th foul. It was a bad anticipation whistle by the ref. If you watch the video, it’s pretty clear there was no foul here. But when Durant bit on the Wade pump fake, it looked like there would be contact. Here’s video of his first four fouls. The first one is petty, 15 feet away from the hoop. The 2nd one is stupid – on a LeBron and-1 with :50 left in the half. The third one was a legit foul, hugging LeBron. The 4th one is criminal.
2) Just 1:40 after Durant left, OKC coach Scott Brooks did something curious – he pulled Russell Westbrook. Perhaps he feared Westbrook would try to go into hero mode with Durant on the bench. For a minute, it didn’t matter – Derek Fisher converted a 4-point play and OKC led, 64-54. But with James Harden struggling (he shot 2-for-10), the Thunder had zero offense and the Heat peeled off a 15-3 run to end the quarter. Eight of those points came on free throws (OKC fouled Jones and Battier on 3-pointers; they made all six), and LeBron’s 3-pointer capped the run. In case you’re curious: Wade 44 minutes, LeBron 43 minutes, Westbrook … 38 minutes. (Sidenote: Anyone know why Serge Ibaka didn’t play at all in the 4th? He only played 22 minutes; Derek Fisher was on the court for 28 minutes.)
OKC didn’t get back in the game until the final two minutes, when Thabo Sefolosha picked D Wade’s pocket in perhaps the greatest thievery of the NBA postseason:
But the Heat made their free throws (31-of-35) and the Thunder didn’t (15-of-24), which is why Miami can get away with shooting 37 percent and turn the ball over nine times in the 4th quarter and still win.
So Game 4 will be the series. I hate how the referees are becoming a story, but Kevin Durant’s foul trouble was pivotal in Games 2 and 3.
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