OKC just needs to play better if they hope to win Game Four

The Oklahoma City Thunder shot twenty-two percent from three-point range in their Game Three loss to the Miami Heat on Sunday. James Harden finished 2 for 10 from the floor overall. Kevin Durant could not score more than 25 and Russell Westbrook could not top 19.

Meanwhile, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade finished with 29 and 25 respectively, out-scoring the Thunder duo by 10. Chris Bosh only made 3 of the 12 field goals he attempted, totaling 10 points on the night, but only Kendrick Perkins scored that many for OKC behind KD and Russell.

There was an opening there, with no other Heat player after Bosh registering double figures in the points column, but the Thunder failed to take advantage.

Each of their 14 turnovers as a team came at the worst time. Kevin Durant’s five fouls prevented him from being on the floor during a stretch when his team desperately needed him.

OKC could have survived one or two of those things happening in Game Three and still maybe won. All six were in play at the same time, however, and the totality of that was simply too much to overcome.

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 17:  Head coach Scott Brooks of the Oklahoma City Thunder  looks on as he answers questions from the media after the Thunder lost 91-85 against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 17, 2012 at American Airlines Arena...

Aside from playing Serge Ibaka more (22 minutes, on bench for most of 4th quarter) and Kendrick Perkins less (34 minutes, finishing the game alongside Harden and the other four starters), there is not too much to point to strategically for Scott Brooks to fix heading into Game Four.

If the Thunder only make 4 of their 18 three point attempts next time out they will be in trouble. If Harden does not score more than nine points they are probably sunk. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have to at least keep pace with what James and Wade offensively too for the Thunder to have a real chance.

If nobody other than those two guys score as many as 11 points for the Heat after that, the Thunder must capitalize. Oklahoma City did not capitalize on Sunday, and the team still only lost by six (91-85). I guess that is the bright-side. But there is not much more to feel good about if they do not improve in a hurry.

The officiating was not good on Sunday night. There were 25 fouls called on the Thunder to only 19 whistled on the Heat. Miami scored 31 points on 35 chances from the free throw line as a result. Oklahoma City scored only 15 points from the line, but also missed nine attempts. That disparity is huge, there were definitely some Joey Crawford-esque calls taking place out there, but the fact still remains that if the Thunder hit all nine of those FT’s there might have been a different outcome.

So add shoot free throws better to the list of Game Four adjustments for Oklahoma City, and be ready to screen Coach Spoelstra if he decides to d-up a wide-open Russell Westbrook on a last second three.

But pushing for Game Seven’s through using company-men officials conspiracy theories aside, the Thunder still have to play way better than they just did if they hope to win an NBA Finals Game. Whether that be Sunday, Tuesday, or any day.

After the way Game One was played by both teams, Game Three was an overall disappointment. Maybe the reasons could point to fatigue, maybe each team is adjusting to what the other guys are doing, maybe a combination of both, but hopefully the overall product is better in Game Four.

In order for that to happen, the Thunder need to come out not like it is their first NBA Finals appearance ever. They need that same swagger they marched into the thing with. Russell Westbrook needs to stop thinking and just play like he did last week. Kevin Durant cannot allow himself to be sidelined with foul trouble, however weak the calls may have been. Most importantly though, James Harden needs to be James Harden. G

ame Four will go to whichever team comes out focused on playing their best basketball of the season. Anything less than that from the Thunder could spell doom.

In Game Three, the Heat showed they are good enough to play something less than that and still win. The Thunder simply are not. Not yet at least.

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of StepienRules.com. I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine, Cleveland.com, BleacherReport.com, InsideFacebook.com and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.