Heat defeats Thunder, 91-85, in Game 3 of NBA Finals
MIAMI — Regrets? The Oklahoma City Thunder certainly has a few after the final 1 1/2 minutes of Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
The Thunder was within a point of the Miami Heat on Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, and then it wasn’t after a flurry of missed shots and an egregious turnover by Thabo Sefolosha.
Miami converted five of six free throws in the last 1:19 to secure a 91-85 victory that gave the Heat a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is here Tuesday.
LeBron James had 29 points on 11-for-23 shooting to go with 14 rebounds for the Heat, and Dwyane Wade had an all-around excellent game with 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
Things were trending heavily in the Thunder’s direction only a few minutes earlier after Russell Westbrook made a pull-up jumper, capping a 6-0 run that pulled the Thunder to within 86-85 with 1:30 to go.
But the Thunder’s final four possessions were all regrettable. Kevin Durant badly missed a running jumper, Westbrook missed a three-pointer, Sefolosha bounced an inbounds pass directly to Wade and then Westbrook missed a three-pointer.
Durant finished with 25 points, making 11 of 19 shots, and Westbrook had 19 points. But Oklahoma City guard James Harden struggled mightily, scoring nine points on two-for-10 shooting.
The Thunder looked defeated after flubbing three consecutive possessions midway through the fourth quarter that ended in turnovers, spoon-feeding the Heat’s 8-0 run that included three-point plays by James and Wade.
Harden was twice the guilty party for the Thunder, making a bad pass that went off Durant’s hands and then losing his dribble on Oklahoma City’s next possession.
Heat 69, Thunder 67 (end of third quarter)
For a team that was outscored by only a point, things could not have unraveled much more quickly than they did in the third quarter for Oklahoma City.
Kevin Durant played sparingly in the quarter after picking up his fourth foul and the Thunder frittered away all of a 10-point lead it had taken at one point.
Oklahoma City twice fouled Heat players in the act of taking three-pointers, and Shane Battier and James Jones responded by making all six free throws to shave a nine-point deficit to three.
The Thunder wasn’t quite as accurate on freebies, making six of 11 free throws in the quarter.
Miami missed its first seven shots of the quarter, finally converting a high-percentage opportunity when Wade went in for a dunk.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City was getting contributions from seemingly its entire roster.
The often-overlooked Thabo Sefolosha made a move every bit as athletic as those by his more ballyhooed Thunder teammates early in the quarter, taking an alley-oop pass from Russell Westbrook for a dunk.
Westbrook drove for a scoop layup shortly thereafter, giving Oklahoma City a 56-51 lead and forcing the Heat to call a timeout. It only got worse for Miami, with Durant dunking a missed shot by Sefolosha and then making a one-handed leaping jumper to increase the Thunder’s advantage to nine points.
The cushion reached 10 after Derek Fisher converted a four-point play, making a three-pointer and ensuing free throw after getting bumped by Mario Chalmers.
It wouldn’t last. James has 21 points and Wade 20 for the Heat.
Heat 47, Thunder 46 (halftime)
Miami takes an early lead. Oklahoma City rallies and the game turns taut.
It’s been a template in the NBA Finals that repeated itself again in the first half of Game 3 at AmericanAirlines Arena, with the Heat and Thunder continuing to counter each other with a flurry of entertaining plays.
Kevin Durant smiled after his turnaround jumper late in the second quarter gave the Thunder a 41-38 lead, but a pair of three-pointers by Shane Battier and a three-point play by LeBron James put Miami back up before halftime.
Russell Westbrook had the final wow-inducing play of the half when he made a three-pointer with two seconds remaining, giving Oklahoma City a one-point halftime deficit that was certainly preferable to the 12-point disadvantage it faced in Game 1 and the seven-point hole it nearly climbed out of in Game 2.
James finished the half with 16 points on a robust seven-for-13 shooting to go with eight rebounds. Dwyane Wade had 11 points but needed 15 shots to get there, making only five.
Durant and Westbrook had 13 points each for the Thunder, with Westbrook’s five-for-10 shooting a marked improvement over his early game struggles from the first two games of the series. Kendrick Perkins added eight points and seven rebounds, providing steady production for Oklahoma City.
Derek Fisher had a turn-back-the-clock moment in the second quarter, the Oklahoma City guard contorting his 37-year-old body to catch a wayward pass from Westbrook before squaring up for a three-pointer from the corner.
James Harden has been a non-factor for Oklahoma City, making only one of six shots. Miami has the lead despite shooting 40.9% to the Thunder’s 50% in part because the Heat committed only two turnovers.
Perhaps the most surprising stat of the half was that Miami had 12 fastbreak points to only five for the fastbreak-loving Thunder.
Heat 26, Thunder 20 (end of first quarter)
Oklahoma City fell behind again in the early going Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena, but it was certainly more manageable than the double-digit deficits the Thunder faced in the first two games of the NBA Finals.
Russell Westbrook shook off another slow start in which he missed his first three shots to make his next two, and the Thunder was not staring at a big uphill climb after the first 12 minutes of Game 3.
Heat forward LeBron James had 10 points and pass-happy guard Dwyane Wade had four assists, not counting one he should have received before the game for imploring fans to get loud. While the atmosphere here may never be confused with that at the considerably more voluble Chesapeake Energy Arena, it was rocking after a putback by James gave the Heat a 10-4 lead and forced Oklahoma City to call a timeout.
Kevin Durant had six points and the play of the quarter when he went in for a ferocious driving dunk from the wing in what seemed like a nanosecond.
Shane Battier, who had given the Heat an unexpected boost with 17 points in each of the first two games, did not take a shot in the first quarter.
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