However, sometimes a team earns the victory and sometimes the victory is handed to them. The difference doesn’t show up in the final score, but it does exist.
On Sunday night, the Miami Heat didn’t win Game 3. Well, they did, but the victory was a direct result of the Thunder losing it.
Despite their best efforts to give the game away and allow the Thunder to take hold of home court advantage once more, the Heat walked away with a victory.
I cannot in good conscience say that a team that shot 6-of-16 from the field during the final 12 minutes of action and turned the ball over nine times in the fourth quarter truly earned the victory. The Heat took a 2-1 lead in the series, but it was a direct result of the Thunder’s mistakes down the stretch.
The Thunder had a sizable lead in the third quarter when Dwyane Wade pump-faked Kevin Durant into a foul with 5:41 remaining. Scott Brooks left his superstar on the bench way too long, allowing the Heat to retake the lead thanks to a 16-7 run while Durant rested.
Brooks also chose to bench Russell Westbrook after an offensive foul, replacing him with an ineffective Derek Fisher just less than a minute after removing Durant from the game. Just like Durant, Westbrook rode the pine until the start of the fourth quarter as a rhythm-less Thunder offense stagnated.
Oklahoma City’s fourth-quarter performance wasn’t too much better than the Heat’s either. The team was 7-of-17 from the field and gave up the ball six times during the final quarter.
However, the biggest problem was that the moment seemed to get too big for the Thunder to handle.
Durant uncharacteristically clanged a pair of free throws off the rim with 7:54 remaining in the game and his team down by a single point. Just to rub it in, LeBron knocked down both of his just 43 seconds later.
Derek Fisher forgot who he was, driving into the lane for an ill-advised layup attempt that was easily swatted away by Udonis Haslem. Just a few minutes later, he spurned the stars on the team to take a three-pointer in transition. Of course, he missed it.
James Harden just forgot how to play basketball entirely. That’s really the only way to describe what happened to the bearded shooting guard.
Russell Westbrook went into take-over mode and it didn’t work.
Everyone on the Thunder seemed to fall apart when the going got tough in Game 3, showing their youth and relative inexperience for the first time this postseason.
Game 3 wasn’t won by the Heat. It was lost by the Thunder and that has to be an encouraging sign for OKC going into Game 4.
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