The Miami Heat could only manage to hit five of their jump shots from outside of the lane last night. That would be five of 29 total jump shots. That’s 17%. The Heat made up for their horrible shooting performance by consistently attacking the rim (45 of their shots were in the lane), by snagging 14 offensive rebounds, and by hitting their free throws (89% including 15-19 from LeBron and Wade). It’s one of the few times you’ll ever see a team win while shooting only 38% from the field.
The Thunder played well. However, their usually reliable free throw and three point shooting simply was not up to their own standards last night. The Thunder missed nine of their 24 free throw attempts, and 14 of their 18 three point attempts. Despite shooting better overall from the field, the Thunder could not secure enough defensive rebounds and generate enough turnovers to overcome Miami’s constant to-the-basket attack. You can blame some of that on Miami’s swarming defense and even a little on playing on the road. Also compounding the poor shooting was that a lot of it came from the Thunder’s primary bench scorer, James Harden, who went 2-10 from the field, hitting none of his four three-pointers.
Fouls again hampered the Thunder. Kevin Durant had to sit crucial minutes with foul trouble in the 3rd and 4th quarter due to foul trouble. But considering that 45 of Miami’s 74’s FG attempts in the lane, it’s not crazy that Miami was awarded six more free throws than Oklahoma City. The real problem for the Thunder was that Durant was caught on three silly fouls. One was a wild strip attempt early in the game, about 90 feet from the Thunder’s defensive basket. Another was a caused by biting on a Dwayne Wade jump fake. And the final was an attempt to take a charge, wherein LeBron James slipped just enough by Durant to avoid the charge and pick up the blocking foul. It’s those types of plays Durant will need to avoid.
These games are so tight, so hardly fought, and the balance swings on minute statistical differences, it’s very hard to identify patterns, and as such make predictions. We could spend lots of time arguing which unlikely event will or will not reoccur in Game Four. There has been one pattern that has emerged though that makes me think the Heat should now be favorites to win the series. LeBron James has averaged 30 points per game and over 10 rebounds per game in the Finals (making me eat my words). If James continues to shine in the Finals, it will be tough for the Thunder to overcome the advantage he gives the Heat.
Game Four is tomorrow night. Prepare for another highly entertaining battle between these two great squads. The Thunder will be fighting for their playoff lives, and the Heat will have to come exceptionally strong to match the effort the Thunder will bring.