The reality is that the Thunder trail 2-1, making Tuesday’s Game 4 in Miami a game OKC cannot afford to lose. History shows that no team has come from a 3-1 series deficit in the NBA Finals. The Thunder did rebound from losing the first two games of the Western Conference Finals to San Antonio. But that was the Spurs.
Miami is led by LeBron James, who has played the best and most determined ball of his career. His numbers — 33.4 points, 11.6 rebounds in last five games, going back to Game 6 of the previous series — reflect his impact on the series.
Just as significant has been that James has received more help than Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, which was not suppose to happen. But sure enough, Dwyane Wade has relocated his offense to nicely compliment James — and forward Shane Battier, a defensive specialist, has made 17 of 21 three-point shots. Also, point guard Mario Chalmers has been more productive than anticipated.
Meanwhile, Durant has been outstanding. However, he was held just four points in the fourth quarter after he scored 17 and 16 in the last 12 minutes respectively in Games 1 and 2. Worse, though, for the Thunder is that he has not received consistent help from anyone, especially point guard Russell Westbrook and Sixth Man of the Year Award recipient James Harden, who was just 2-for-9 and had only a strong effort in Game 2.
Westbrook had to be sat by coach Scott Brooks because he had four possessions that were totally out of control and unproductive. Problem was, Durant already was on the bench with foul trouble. OKC’s 10-point lead collapsed by the end of the period and missed free throws and poor late-game execution doomed them.
Now, Oklahoma City needs all that rectified to win Game 4. Its youth showed for the first time in the playoffs, and, against James and the Heat’s determination, that inexperience has to be harnessed to tie the series and not face unprecedented odds.
“We’ll be ready,” James assured. “We love the challenge.”
No one is certain about the Thunder.