The staff writers at Right Down Euclid will be reacting to each game of the NBA Finals. Here’s what Zachary Kolesar and Chris Manning had to think about Game 3 in Miami on Sunday night.
Zachary Kolesar’s reaciton
I still don’t understand why the question of LeBron’s clutchness keeps on coming up after every game. The question we should be asking as fans is “Does LeBron James need to be clutch in order for his team to win?” And even when he is clutch, like when he fearlessly plowed ahead through the middle of the lane with 3:47 left to go in the game to dunk over Kevin Durant for the and-one.
So after going 12 for 12 from the free throw line on Thursday night in Oklahoma City and just recently coming up with a clutch dunk and a converted free throw to put his team up by seven points after a furious fourth-quarter Thunder comeback which had OKC up by one-point with 7:31 left on the clock.
Something that amazed me more about the time left in the fourth quarter than the two examples above has to be what the Heat’s “Big Three” did in the final 7:11. LeBron and Chris Bosh collected a combined seven rebounds, the three went 9-10 from the charity stripe and scored the final 15 points of the game for the Heat. Although the three also combined for four turnovers and a unimpressive 3-9 from the field in that same time, they did manage to close out the game and outperform the “Big Three” in Oklahoma City.
From a team perspective, however, I was very impressed with Miami’s efforts from the free throw line compared to the Thunder’s off day. The Heat got to the line 35 times in Game 3 and shot 88.6 percent from the stripe while the Thunder got to the line 24 times and couldn’t even match half the number of free throws that the Heat made (OKC made 15 of their attempts compared to Miami’s 31 conversions).
So I know I started this article trying to sway away from talking about the great recent play of Miami’s “Big Three” in the fourth quarter and slowly transitioned into talking about how great they’ve been in high pressure situations. But it’s hard to ignore a sudden change in the down-the-stretch play of the Heat that critics and fans have been harping them for since Bosh, Wade and James joined forces in South Beach. They may have finally found a cure to their fourth-quarter blues, and it’s about time that people recognize it.
From a Thunder perspective, nothing really changed. Russell Westbrook came out and shot the ball like he always does (but this time more successfully), Durant found himself in foul trouble for the second straight game and they couldn’t find a way to tie the game up with under a minute to go. With Durant and Westbrook both missing shots to tie the game in crucial possessions that pretty much cost them the game, is it time to question the clutchness of the Oklahoma City Thunder?
Chris Manning’s reaction
Let’s make one things clear: the Oklahoma City Thunder cost themselves a victory in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. They made several mistakes, most notably only shooting 15 of 24 from the free-throw line, which is an atrocious 62.5 percent. Adding on to that, Coach Scott Brooks mismanaged Kevin Durant’s foul trouble, neglecting to put him back in the game in order to curb the surging momentum of the Heat. James Harden was also uncharacteristically off in Game 3, shooting 2-10 from the field and committing a dumb foul on LeBron James when they didn’t have to. Erase these mistakes and the Thunder may have won.
But when it comes down to it, the Thunder’s “Big Three” of Durant, Harden, and Russell Westbrook was simply outplayed by the Heat’s “Big Three” of James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. The Thunder’s “Big Three” accounted for a combined 53 points on 21 of 37 shooting as compared to the Heat’s Big Three who scored a combined 64 points on 22 of 57 shooting. The Heat’s trio also simply looked more into the game than their Thunder counterparts, grabbing offensive rebounds for second chance opportunities. James himself actually out-rebounded the Thunder’s Big Three by his lonesome on the offensive end five to three.
The previous games of this series paint a similar picture. In Game 1 The Thunder’s “Big Three” outscored the Heat’s Big Three 68 to 60. In Game 2 the Heat’s “Big Three” was outscored 80-72, but were 20 of 23 from the line as compared to the Thunder’s 14 of 18. As these stats show (as do other ones like rebounding totals and three-point percentage) the team whose “Big Three” plays the best will win the game.
That being, the big question going into Game 4 is who is going to be fourth man for the Thunder? The Heat have found their man in the grizzled veteran Shane Battier, who has been money from three the whole series. The Thunder desperately need to find their guy. Will it be Derek Fisher? Thabo Sefolosha? Or maybe Serge Ibaka? Whoever he is, he’ll be needed in Game 4 along with a strong “Big Three” where all three score. It’s important for both teams, but for OKC, having a missing “Big Three” could mean being put on the brink of elimination.
Stay tuned to Right Down Euclid for more NBA Finals coverage