Starting 5: Miami closes out young Thunder in Game 3 & Durant makes no excuses


Every morning, we’ll give you five things from the night before in the NBA to start your day.

1: Miami finishes like a champ, OKC doesn’t

When you’re fighting a team that can match all your physical tools and even win a few of the matchups against you, you need to come up with some other way to win.  Usually, that “other” way is to capitalize on the other team’s mistakes, while not making many of your own.

That’s how the Heat beat the Thunder last night… by taking advantage of OKC’s miscues, of which there were too many at the wrong time.  James Harden’s brain took a few minutes off in the fourth (prompting this Ron Artest tweet) which helped the Heat fend off the Thunder’s comeback as much as anything at that point.  Then Thabo Sefolosha’s turnover on an inbound play cost the Thunder their last desperate chance at tying the game.

To over-simplify, the Thunder looked a whole lot like a team that is making its first NBA Finals appearance while the Heat looked like a team that learned from past missteps.  When the SuperFriends were assembled in Miami, the popular thought was immediate dividends.  The more reasonable thought was that it would take a year for these guys to figure it out.

Well, they’re figuring it out.  

2: About that Thunder youth

It’s hard to remember that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are 23, and that James Harden is 22.  It’s hard to remember that these guys haven’t been here before.  And no matter how much 37 year-old 5-time champion Derek Fisher tells them about the experience, this is something they’ll just have to experience. 

Russell Westbrook doesn’t always take the best shots.  James Harden sometimes looks a little overwhelmed.  Kevin Durant is fouling like mad.  These are all things that can change with time and experience. 

Dwyane Wade is 30 and he’s won a title.  Chris Bosh is 28 and this is his second trip to the Finals.  LeBron James is 27 and he’s made a few trips of his own.  Talent is one thing, experience can help that talent do great things.  Even though Dwyane Wade, by most accounts, has had a pretty bad playoff run, his experience allows him to come through when it matters.

Harden, for all his great play, hasn’t felt the pressure of finality quite like this before.  None of these guys have.  Perhaps they’re quick learners and they’ll figure out a way to get past it in Game 4, but right now they look like they’re feeling the pressure. 


Thabo Sefolosha picks Wade clean and then the great finish


Did Russell Westbrook ask Rajon Rondo for permission to use this move? 

Wade with the pretty reverse finish

4:  Line of the Night:  LeBron James – 29 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists

LeBron is closing these games out.  What more can you say?  He’s finishing.  He’s doing MVP things. 

5:  You can quote me on that

I try not to concern myself with the officiating.  They’re going to make their calls, and there’s nothing we can do about it.  We can’t change it.  Just got to play through it.  There’s going to be some calls they may miss.  They’re human.  There’s going to be some calls that they get right.  Just got to play through it.
     -Kevin Durant

I told you guys, last year I didn’t make enough game‑changing plays, and that’s what I kind of pride myself on.  I didn’t do that last year in The Finals.  I’m just trying to make game‑changing plays, and whatever it takes for our team to win, just trying to step up in key moments and be there for my teammates. 
     -LeBron James