When the Miami Heat advanced to the NBA Finals, the match-up between LeBron James and Kevin Durant was what everyone was discussing. Now, three games into the NBA Finals, all the talk is centered around the referees favoring Miami.
As much as NBA fans would like to put all the blame on the officials, it would be wrong to do so. The Thunder have to be responsible for trailing 1-2.
In game one, Oklahoma City shot the ball very well (51.9%) and held Miami to 46.2% from the field. The Heat were also outrebounded 35-43. Those statistics alone show why the Thunder were successful in the beginning. It also helps that Kevin Durant added 36 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Since then, the league’s best free-throw shooting team, OKC, has not looked that way, and it has surely had an impact.
Games two and three featured the Heat shooting at least 88.0% on free throws while the Thunder have shot 73.1% and 62.5%. Making just a couple of those free throws in game two could have resulted in a different result for OKC. It definitely would have also helped if they had not started the game so poorly. Miami outscored the Thunder 27-15 in the first quarter and continued to dominate as their largest lead was 17 points.
Free throw shooting was not the only category OKC were outperformed in during game two. The Heat shot 47.4% from the field and gathered 40 rebounds while the Thunder shot 43.0% while grabbing 36 rebounds.
OKC also struggled with transition and interior defense at the start of game three. Miami got several dunks on fast breaks and while driving to the bucket. The Thunder did a better job shooting than the Heat, but they were still outrebounded and outdone in free throw shooting.
It also does not help OKC that the Big Three have been performing well. LeBron James is averaging 30.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists. Dwyane Wade is averaging 22.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. Chris Bosh is averaging 12.0 points and 10.3 rebounds. Plus, the usually nonexistent Miami bench is now slightly productive. Shane Battier has been shooting very well so far. He has been shooting 73.3% on three-point field goals while averaging 14.3 points.
With Miami playing this well, the Thunder will need to step up and win game four. The Heat’s momentum must be stopped. Free throws need to be made, because this series is going to be tough and a close one.