The Thunder came up short in a defensive fourth quarter, falling to the Heat 85-91. Once again, the Thunder found themselves trailing at the end of the first quarter, though only by six this time. They bounced back in the second, keeping the game very close up until the end.
Late defensive breakdowns sapped the team’s strength, but James Harden’s poor shooting didn’t help. He was 2 of 10 in field goal attempts, finishing with only nine points on the night.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook finished with 25 and 19 points, respectively, with Westbrook having only a 44 percent field goal percentage and 4 assists.
On the other hand, LeBron James, who had another great night, finished with 29 points, had 14 rebounds (the most in the game), and put up three assists. Dwyane Wade had 25 points, despite making only 8 of his 22 field goal attempts.
Miami’s Big Three were the ones who really put the Thunder away in the fourth quarter, scoring the team’s final 15 points of the game, which included a pair of three-point plays, not to mention 9 out of 10 free throws.
Which brings us to the Thunder’s fourth-quarter collapse, not something you’d normally expect from a team known for slow starts and strong finishes.
Thabo Sefolosha, who did not have a strong defensive night, had actually stolen the ball from Dwyane Wade and made a 1-foot two point shot to bring the Thunder to within three with 1:55 left in the game.
Westbrook then reduced the Heat’s lead to only one just 25 seconds later. It was 85-86 Heat, but then the momentum shifted once again, this time in favor of Miami.
That was the last point the Thunder would score. Sefolosha fouled Chris Bosh, giving Bosh two free throws which he did not miss. Oklahoma City missed their next two shots, a 9-foot attempt from Durant and a three-point attempt from Westbrook.
That was followed up by two poor decisions by Thunder players. First, with 16 seconds left and the Thunder down by three, James Harden, trying to draw a charging foul on LeBron James, ends up taking a blocking foul instead. This gave James two free throws, though he only made one.
Then, with hope still alive at 89-85 Heat, Sefolosha’s inbound pass to Westbrook was completely off the mark. The pass was intended for Westbrook to receive before he changed direction, so when Sefolosha passed, only Wade was there for the steal, which essentially ended the game.
One of the Thunder’s biggest weaknesses in this game was their poor free throw shooting. They were only 15 of 24 from the line, whereas Miami was 31 of 35.
Oklahoma City needs to get to the line more in Game 4, and they need more consistent free throw shooting. They have averaged 70 percent on their free throw shooting during the first three games, a number far below their 81 percent average this postseason.
As for Miami, LeBron James did it again, showing no signs of slowing down, and Wade is right behind him. Westbrook and Durant are simply going to have to outplay them if the Thunder want to win.
Game 4 will be in Miami on Tuesday – game-time is 9 p.m.