Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, June 18, 2012 at 9:45 AM
If you happen to be rooting for the Miami Heat, than Sunday night's 91-85 triumph over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3 of these NBA Finals was a "glass half full" deal as LeBron James was masterful once again - okay, he didn't get 30-plus points for the first time in this series but "The King's" 29-point, 14-rebound performance was pretty darn special - while Erik Spoelstra's club continued to shine at the free-throw line while draining a ridiculous 31-of-35 shots.
Now, if you happen to like Okie City, than Game 3 was a "glass half empty" deal:
The Thunder allowed a 10-point third quarter to slip out of its grasps, the bench really sabotaged 'em while shooting a collective 6-of-22 from the floor and OKC head coach Scott Brooks really deserved to wear the post-game goat horns here ... why on earth did he sit point guard Russell Westbrook (19 points) at the same time he was forced to sit foul-prone Kevin Durant (25 points)?
The Thunder's big lead was whittled down with both megastars on the pine for a prolonged period of time and some brain cramp moves - see a pair of Oklahoma City fouls on three-point tries by the Heat on deep-in-the-corner shots - allowed Miami to climb back into the lead faster than you can say Jackie Gleason.
In fact, one other sequence we wish to point out happened late in the first half when Brooks' crew failed to cover Miami's Shane Battier who drilled a pair of key triples.
So, you throw in those six points very late in the first half and the six points that Battier and sub James Jones scored following the foul calls on OKC from downtown and it adds up to a Miami win - with, of course, lots of help from James who three games into this set is the runaway winner of this NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award ...
But, again, the Heat's been here before, right?
We will get to the Game 4 preview shortly but here's a couple of under-the-radar notes from Miami's Game 3 win:
Maybe Miami was wearing a lucky charm of sorts when you consider the Heat had eight fourth-quarter turnovers and still outscored the Thunder 22-18 in the final frame. No doubt Okie City should have done more with those Miami miscues but that simply wasn't the case - and what was wrong with sixth man star James Harden who drilled just 2-of-10 trifectas and made several mental blunders including fouling James at half-court with the shot clock swiftly moving down in OKC's favor?
Harden's uneven game really cost the Thunder and yet Brooks played him a whopping 34 minutes ... why?
Finally, we've been saying it right throughout this NBA Finals:
Win the rebounding battle and you're probably gonna be standing in the winner's circle and that was the Game 3 deal as Miami out-boarded Oklahoma City 45-to-38 and don't discount the importance of Miami forward Chris Bosh and his 11 rebs (including four on the offensive end). Bosh has really helped to neutralize the frontcourt tandem of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.
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THE NBA FINALS
#2W OKLAHOMA CITY at #2E MIAMI - Heat leads series tied 2-1; Game 4 is Tuesday at 9:05 p.m. ET
Sure, there was another outcry following Sunday night's game as Oklahoma City critics pointed out how Durant attempted just one more field goal than the sometimes trigger-happy Westbrook (see 19 attempts to 18) but that's a whole lot of poppycock:
In fact, if you watched Game 3 closely than you noticed that Durant forced more of his shots than did Westbrook who - out-and-out - missed three of his four three-pointers including a pair of 'em where he was left wide open.
Nope, as we pointed out a few days back, Westbrook is gonna continue to take his fair share of shots because OKC needs him to score in the 20s here but it's those other aforementioned factor that must change here if Okie City is going to get even here in Game 4.
Harden must fine-tune his game and work harder to get open from beyond the three-point arc where he can become a real game-changer while Ibaka and Perkins must step it up as defenders in the paint as their combined three blocks in Game 3 wasn't good enough and especially when you consider that 90 percent of Miami's first-half points came within five or six feet from the rim.
Again, where is the real knockdown foul to send a message to James and/or Dwyane Wade (25 points on 8-of-22 shooting from the field)?
Here's a couple of strategic points to watch for come Tuesday night:
The Thunder must decide to take a real up-tempo approach here as 12 fast-breaks points in Game 3 ain't enough and so even if Westbrook and Durant do sometimes force up a shot or two, the key here is Brooks' club must get off more shots in the first place.
The 33-of-77 FG night last Sunday was dreadful stuff but OKC probably needs to hoist up a minimum 85 shots here as that would prove they are playing at a 78 rpm speed.
Last note while previewing the NBA Finals Game 4:
Gut feeling is Miami is gonna need the combo of Bosh and G Mario Chalmers to score some well-timed points here. Note this duo teamed up to shoot a rotten 4-of-20 from the floor in Game 3 but, let's face it, that was more than offset by the key threes made by Battier (9 points) and by all those terrific free-throw makes.
If Bosh/Chalmers staggers along on the offensive end here in Game 4, it could very well catch up with the Heat ... but only if the oft-clueless Brooks plays Durant and Westbrook for 45-plus minutes here.
Got it, Scotty?
Here's how the Thunder-Heat NBA Finals Series has gone so far (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|6-12||OKLAHOMA CITY||- 5||Miami||OKLAHOMA CITY 105-94|
|6-14||OKLAHOMA CITY||- 5.5||Miami||Miami 100-96|
|6-17||MIAMI||- 4||Oklahoma City||MIAMI 91-85|
Jim Sez NBA Playoff Pointspread Note: Oklahoma City now is a collective 5-2-1 ATS (against the spread) on the road this post-season for a .714 winning rate while Miami will enter Game 4 having gone 7-3-1 versus the vig at home during this year's playoffs (that's a .700 winning rate).
NOTE: We will have an NBA Finals Game 4 re-cap in the next edition of Jim Sez plus catch our MLB & NFL News & Notes in the days ahead!