Heat Overcome Second Half Shooting to Defeat Thunder
By: Malcolm Shields
It was not pretty, but the Miami Heat will take it. The Heat was able to overcome a tough shooting night, a turnover filled fourth quarter and a late push by the Oklahoma City Thunder to take game three of the 2012 NBA Finals with a 91-85 win on June 17.
LeBron James led the Heat with 29 points and 14 rebounds. Dwyane Wade followed with 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 25 points. Russell Westbrook followed with 19 points. “It’s all about chemistry,” James said after the game. “It’s good to see us execute down the stretch.”
With the Heat leading 88-85 with under a minute remaining in the game, Russell Westbrook missed on an open three-pointer on the left wing to tie the game. The Heat were able to collect the rebound, convert on free-throws and make stops on defense to seal the game to take a 2-1 series lead. “We were able to get stops,” James said. “Both teams are very active defensively.”
Chris Bosh played a vital role collecting rebounds and being a deterrent on defense. He finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Durant’s foul trouble and Westbrook’s up-and-down play continued in game three as the Thunder struggled to execute in the final 90 seconds. “I thought we gave ourselves a chance to win,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We missed some free-throws and turned the ball over way too many times.”
In a back-and-forth fourth quarter, the Heat held onto to a 78-77 lead with 5:59 remaining. James and Wade took control as the Heat took a six point lead. The Heat became careless with the ball as the Thunder went on a run to cut the deficit to 86-85 with 1:30 in the fourth quarter.
“We showed some resolve,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We had enough stops and timely possessions to get the win. It wasn’t pretty all the way through, but we like these kind of wins. It showed the character of our team.” The Heat finished shooting 38 percent from the field, but went 31-for-35 from the free-throw line.
In the final 90 seconds, the Heat was able to contain Durant and Westbrook. “[We] just try to make it tough,” James said. “That is what are defense is all about, to make it tough.”
The Thunder took a 56-51 lead via a 10-4 run in the first four minutes of the third quarter.
The Heat caught a break when with 5:41 remaining and trailing 60-54, Durant collected his fourth foul of the game, which sent him to the bench. With Durant on the bench, the Heat, led by Wade and James, outscored the Thunder 15-7, to end the quarter leading 69-67.
Oklahoma City took advantage of James resting on the bench and the Heat’s cold shooting to outscore the Heat 16-9 with four minutes remaining in the half to take a 36-35 lead. Unlike the first two games of the series, the Thunder kept the game close late in the half as Durant and Westbrook combined to score 14 of the Thunder’s 26 points in the quarter to end the half trailing 47-46.
Just like the first two games of the Finals, the Heat jumped out to an early 10-4 lead. The Heat continued its aggressive play as Wade, James and Bosh were able to consistently get inside the paint for easy buckets in the quarter.
The Heat will attempt to take a 3-1 series lead on June 19 in game four of the NBA Finals.