MIAMI, Fl. — It was all set-up for the Thunder to take a series lead in the 2012 NBA Finals.
The Thunder had worked hard to take a 64-54 lead against the Miami Heat midway through the 3rd quarter of Sunday night’s 3rd game of the championship series, when it all came apart.
It ended with a 91-85 Miami victory, to give the Heat a 2-1 series lead in the World Championship series.
The comeback started when the Thunder fouled Miami players on two attempted shots from behind the “3” point line…basically giving the Heat six free points on foul shots.
So much for the lead.
When the “run” was over, Miami had outscored OKC 17-3 to take a 4-point lead midway through the final period, but the Thunder rallied to take another advantage, 77-76 with 7:30 to go.
Again, the young Thunder collapsed.
A series of missed shots, missed free throws and turnovers helped Miami go on an 8-0 run to take an 84-77 lead with 3:47 to go and the Thunder was silenced for a second straight game.
Lebron James was brilliant again, with 29 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Heat.
Dywane Wade added 25 points along with 7 rebounds and 7 assists and Chris Bosh had another double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
In all, Miami’s “Big 3″ scored the final 15 points of the game for the Heat as they look to take a commanding lead with Thursday night’s game #4, also in south Florida. Another big factor in Miami’s latest win was free throw shooting. The Heat hit 31-35 for the game, outscoring the Thunder by 16 points at the line.
The Thunder was done-in by shocking misses at the charity stripe.
Coming into the NBA Finals, the Thunder had been through just one playoff game in 15 tries where they’d missed 7 free throws. Since the NBA Finals tipped off, the Thunder has missed 7, 7 and 9 foul shots in game #3.
And this is the league leader in free throws attempted and made during the regular season! It’s a problem even though neither team would call it what it appeared…succumbing to the pressure.
Also turnovers – at one stretch midway through the 3rd period, Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook had five straight miserable possessions which led head coach Scott Brooks to bench Westbrook about 2 minutes earlier than normal, to “settle him down” as the coach said afterwards.
Then, as the 10 point lead was evaporating, the usually rock-steady James Harden coughed up the basketball two straight possessions.
And the clincher came with :13 left and Miami already leading 89-85 when Thabo Sefolosha threw the ball away on an in-bounds pass – and that was that.
Kevin Durant led OKC with 25 points and 6 rebounds…but KD scored only 6 points in the final quarter (he’d been averaging 17 ppg in that stanza) and he finished with both 5 turnovers and 5 fouls. Westbrook wound up with 19 points (on 18 shots) and James Harden struggled again on a 2-10 shooting night for just 9 points and 2 crucial turnovers late in the loss.
The one bright spot was the play of veteran center Kendrick Perkins inside, who finished with a double-double of 10 points and 12 boards with most of his effectiveness coming in the opening half.
Game #4 is Tuesday night at 8pm Oklahoma time with the Thunder in a “must” win situation so they won’t trail 3-1 in the best-of-7 series with Game #5 set for Thursday, also in Miami.