Heating Up: Miami Wins Again, Takes NBA Finals Lead

Miami maintained momentum at home, winning their second straight game to take a 2-1 edge over the Thunder.

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45 Total Updates since June 17, 2012
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NBA Finals: When In Doubt, Blame The Referees

Only a blind Thunder fan or someone who lives to troll LeBron James would think this NBA Finals series will be remembered for its officiating.

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Russell Westbrook On The Bench Bludgeoned Thunder's Third Quarter Effort

Russell Westbrook is criticized more than he probably should be, but the point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder is still one of the best in the game. It's not surprising, then, that Scott Brooks is receiving quite a bit of criticism for his rotation relating to Westbrook following the Game 3 loss.

The biggest issue came with about five minutes left in the third quarter when, shortly after removing Kevin Durant due to foul trouble, Westbrook was given the hook. Without their top two players on the court, Oklahoma City gave up a double-digit lead in just a few minutes and entered the fourth quarter once again in a deficit.

It was likely the turning point of the game, and as told by Daily Thunder's Royce Young, Brooks' decisions when it came to Westbrook played a key part.

"I took him out a couple minutes early just to settle him down, and put him right back in," said Scott Brooks. "That's coaching, and we moved on. It's nothing against ‑‑ he had a bad stretch. He turned it over, and he took a tough lay‑up."

You want to settle Westbrook down? Take a timeout. Don't bench him. Because he wasn't put "right back in," as Brooks says. He sat the final five minutes, as the Heat came from 10 down to lead by two heading to the fourth.

"It's coach's decision," Westbrook said of being sat. "Got to live with it."

Also: Got to live with a 2-1 series deficit.

The Thunder aren't likely to pick up too many more ten-point advantages in Miami during the NBA Finals, but even when they had one, Oklahoma City's coaching decisions didn't allow them to take advantage.

For more on the game, stick with our 2012 NBA Finals, Game 3 StoryStream. For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For more on the Thunder, check out Welcome To Loud City and SB Nation Kansas City.

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James Harden's Struggles Stood Out In Thunder Loss To Heat

The Oklahoma City Thunder got huge contributions from sixth man extraordinaire James Harden during the regular season and, unsurprisingly, the bearded wonder is now expect to be a big-time performer every time he steps on the court.

Unfortunately Harden has wilted under the pressure of the NBA Finals, though, and people are taking notice of the NBA's best bench player. And, after Harden made just two of his 10 attempts from the field on Sunday night as his team dropped a winnable game to the Miami Heat.

Harden's game probably wouldn't have been all that noticeable, but Scott Brooks clearly was counting on his offensive output to keep Oklahoma City in the game during a third quarter stretch that saw Kevin Durant (due to foul trouble) and Russell Westbrook spend time on the bench. The NBA's sixth man of the year was unable to pick up the slack, though, and a double-digit lead evaporated as quick as it came.

As a result, Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix prominently featured Harden in his post-game column ... and not in the good way, either.

Whither, James Harden? The NBA's reigning Sixth Man award winner struggled for the second time this series, scoring just nine points (on 2-of-10 shooting) while missing on all four of his three-point attempts. Derek Fisher (nine points) picked up some of the slack, chipping in with some intelligent defense. But Harden is a key cog in Oklahoma City's offensive system. When he is in the game, he is both playmaker and scorer, counted on to take some of the ball handling duties from Russell Westbrook as well as create space with his shooting.

Harden reportedly was not happy with how many minutes he played in Game 1; if there is any carryover from that issue, he must get past it, quickly, before Oklahoma City digs itself too deep a hole to climb out of.

Game 4 will be key and, if Harden really does have a gripe with his minutes in the Finals, that's a whole 'nother problem in and of itself.

For more on the game, stick with our 2012 NBA Finals, Game 3 StoryStream. For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For more on the Thunder, check out Welcome To Loud City and SB Nation Kansas City.

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'An Ali-Frazier Fight' And Other Stuff: NBA Finals Notes From Game 3

The NBA Finals moved to South Beach on Sunday night, and the Heat won Game 3. Come for notes on the legendary Miami Heat fans, plus a few more quick thoughts from Sunday.

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NBA Finals: Shane Battier's Shooting, Not Stellar Defense, Taking Center Stage

Shane Battier is best known as a plus-defender who doesn't typically make an impact in the box score, but the Miami Heat's glue guy has taken on a bit of a scoring role early on in the NBA Finals. He's not a go-to scorer by any means, but the veteran wing is taking advantage of every one of his shots.

Battier played in 65 games for the Heat during the regular season, starting 10 of them on his way to a pretty meager 4.8 points per game. He's really turned it on in the Finals though and is averaging nearly 15 points per game through Miami's first three games against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Nearly tripling his scoring average on the NBA's biggest stage is impressive enough, but the efficiency in which Battier is doing it is simply outstanding. The former Blue Devil has made 11 of his 15 three-point attempts on his way to a 73.7 shooting percentage from the field. His true-shooting percentage -- which takes into account that getting three points per shot is worth more than its two-point counterpart -- is an outstanding 101.4 percent.

There are enough weapons to deal with when it comes to Miami that Battier's offensive output is simply icing on the cake ... but it's a really sweet icing considering its timing.

For more on the game, stick with our 2012 NBA Finals, Game 3 StoryStream. For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For more on the Thunder, check out Welcome To Loud City and SB Nation Kansas City.

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It's The Heat's Turn To Look Unstoppable

Remember when the Thunder looked unbeatable in the NBA Finals ... after one game? One more loss for Oklahoma City, and the Heat will be impossible to beat. That, and much more in the Monday Morning Jones.

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Thunder Vs. Heat: Oklahoma City's Struggles From Free-Throw Line Help Miami Win

Free-throws should not decide any basketball game, especially in the NBA Finals, but they were a huge part of the Miami Heat's 91-85 victory Sunday over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Neither team was getting too many gift shots due to the officiating or anything else along those lines, but the rim just seemed to be bigger for Miami than it was for OKC.

That was unexpected, because Oklahoma City was the best team at shooting freebies during the regular season (80.6 percent). In Game 3, Oklahoma City made just 15 of its 24 attempts (62.5 percent) while Miami was able to close out the game by making 31-35 from the free-throw line. There's obviously a disparity in how many freebies each team shot, but the fact that Miami had quite a bit more success knocking its shots down was key the victory..

The worst part about the Thunder's struggles from the line is that it can't be blamed on any one player. Nobody was particularly awful: It was largely a group effort. That effort will need to change as the series goes on, because the Thunder could have been in a much better position to win if they simply converted a couple more of the gifts.

For more on the game, stick with our 2012 NBA Finals, Game 3 StoryStream. For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For more on the Thunder, check out Welcome To Loud City and SB Nation Kansas City.

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NBA Finals 2012: Fourth Quarter Play Doomed Thunder

The best chance the Oklahoma City Thunder had at winning Sunday night's game against the Miami Heat was likely midway through the third quarter, when they held a 10-point lead before Kevin Durant was forced to endure a long stretch on the bench due to foul trouble. Everything was still pretty up in the air in the fourth quarter, though, giving both teams an equal chance to take a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

Miami won the game and the advantage in the series, obviously, due to some costly errors on the part of the Thunder. It wasn't as though the Thunder played awful in the final stanza, but, as SB Nation's Welcome To Loud City pointed out, the difference in play between the two teams during the final 12 minutes of Sunday night's affair was noticeable.

And you can't forget the significance of the fourth. There weren't any underlying themes, but the guile shown by both teams was unbelievable. After no player but Wade or James scoring points in the third, the Heat continued to exploit the Thunder's lax perimeter defense, and they gave two easy baskets to Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers. After that, the team rode on the talent of Dwayne Wade and LeBron James.

Meanwhile, the Thunder were relying on fouls, not moving the ball, and forcing up bad threes. Only a strong Durant jumper out of a timeout sparked the offense again, bringing them all the way to within one. But the fact is, the Thunder blew two golden opportunities to seize the game by the throat, with Durant badly missing a runner and Westbrook bricking an open three.

As noted above, there weren't any wholesale differences in the play of Miami and OKC down the stretch -- the Heat stars just converted while the young Thunder players simply weren't able to execute when given glimmers of hope.

For more on the game, stick with our 2012 NBA Finals, Game 3 StoryStream. For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For more on the Thunder, check out Welcome To Loud City and SB Nation Kansas City.

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Lesson Learned: Maybe It's The Heat Who Are All Grown Up

The Heat topped the Thunder in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night, and on an evening where Kevin Durant and OKC showed their youth, the Heat showed their growth.

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Heat Vs. Thunder, 2012 NBA Finals Game 3: Miami Holds On For 91-85 Victory

With 32 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Miami Heat carried the ball up the floor with a three-point lead. The Oklahoma City Thunder had a choice to make, whether to foul or play defense. They ended up taking the middle road, which is always the wrong decision, as James Harden fouled LeBron James with 10 seconds remaining on the shot clock. He made one of two free throws, effectively ending the game.

To add insult to injury, Thabo Sefalosha threw away the inbound pass on the Thunder's next possession. Oklahoma City was within two possessions for the entire fourth quarter and within one possession from 1:55 remaining in Game 3 until Harden's foul, but they failed to capitalize on their opportunity to grab an important road win as the Heat held on for a 91-85 win.

Kevin Durant's 11-19 shooting performance looks solid on the box score, but his fouls and missed shots down the stretch will be remembered more than his periods of excellent play. The Thunder had a nine-point lead in the third quarter, but things turned around when Durant picked up his fourth foul and had to sit down for nearly six minutes. That was followed by two more fouls on jump shooters by the Thunder, gifting the struggling Heat a way back into the game.

James had periods of the game where he went cold, but he came up big in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 29 points on 11-23 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds. James only finished with three assists, but he had a number of key passes that led to his teammates getting fouled and getting to the free throw line, the most important being one to Chris Bosh with 1:19 remaining, after which Bosh made both free throws to extend Miami's lead to three points.

Dwyane Wade was very poor, though his 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists line covers it up. He was 8-22 from the floor and turned the ball over five times, the most out of anyone on the Heat. In an incredible 30-second sequence in the fourth quarter, Wade almost threw the game away from his team, turning a seven-point lead into a one-point lead almost by himself. In that 30-second span, he fouled Kendrick Perkins, turned the ball over for a Sefolosha dunk, then missed a bad jump shot which led to a Russell Westbrook pull-up jumper in transition.

It was almost the second game in the finals in which the Heat lost because of Wade's struggles, but thanks to some big plays by James and some bad mental errors on the part of the Thunder, Miami have a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.

For more on the game, stick with our 2012 NBA Finals, Game 3 StoryStream. For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For more on the Thunder, check out Welcome To Loud City and SB Nation Kansas City.

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Heat Vs. Thunder Score Update: Miami Leading 69-67 After Third Quarter

Kevin Durant started the third quarter hot while LeBron James started the quarter cold, but a series of fouls turned the period in Miami's favor. Oklahoma City jumped out to a nine-point lead in the first five minutes of the quarter, but Durant picked up his fourth personal foul with 5:41 remaining and sat the rest of the quarter. Serge Ibaka and Derek Fisher followed that up with a couple of bad fouls of their own, and that turned the momentum of the quarter. A nine-point Thunder lead evaporated, and the Heat lead 69-67 with one quarter to play.

Incredibly, the Heat still aren't making jump shots. James hit a big three-pointer to give the Heat the lead at the very end of the quarter, but their outside shooting has still been absolutely abysmal. The Heat are now 6-30 on the night, which represents an improvement. They made three of those jumpers in the third quarter.

The Heat are currently living at the free throw line, where they were 13-14 in the third quarter. They're 22-25 from the line at the night, with Dwyane Wade getting there more often than any of his teammates. He has 20 points to go along with seven assists and six rebounds. James already has a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

On the other end, Durant is having a stellar night with 21 points on 9-13 shooting, but he can't score if he isn't on the floor. His fourth foul caused a massive disruption for the Thunder and has Miami not only leading by two points, but currently looking like the team with the momentum.

For more on the game, stick with our 2012 NBA Finals, Game 3 StoryStream. For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For more on the Thunder, check out Welcome To Loud City and SB Nation Kansas City.

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Heat Vs. Thunder Halftime Score: Somehow, Miami Up 47-46 Sans Jump Shooting

The Miami Heat have shot 3-22 from outside of the paint in the first half. Two of those three makes came from Shane Battier three-pointers in the final three minutes of the quarter. And yet, despite the fact that they haven't gotten anything going outside of layups and free throws, the Heat have created enough offense to have a 47-46 lead on the Oklahoma City Thunder at halftime of Game 3.

It's been a solid night so far for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who have 13 points apiece. It's been a considerably less effective night for James Harden, who has struggled with three points on 1-6 shooting. Kendrick Perkins has picked up a few easy buckets on offensive rebounds en route to eight points, but he's the only offense other than Durant and Westbrook to speak of. Not that this is irregular in any way.

LeBron James has been downright dominant on the night with 16 points, eight rebounds -- four of them offensive -- and two assists. Dwyane Wade's jump shot has been very poor, but he's still getting to the rack often enough that he has 11 points. Battier's been an unsung hero so far in his 16 minutes on the floor, playing great defense and making the only two shots that he's attempted.

The Thunder are in decent shape at the moment, down by just one point on the road with the best likely yet to come from Kevin Durant, but they're going to need to get some offense out of Harden and they're going to need to improve defensively in the second half. Sooner or later, the Miami Heat are going to hit some open jump shots. When they do, they're probably going to open up a lead.

For more on the game, stick with our 2012 NBA Finals, Game 3 StoryStream. For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For more on the Thunder, check out Welcome To Loud City and SB Nation Kansas City.

Check out the SB Nation Channel on YouTube

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Heat Vs. Thunder Score Update: Miami Leads 26-20 After One Quarter

The Oklahoma City Thunder spent seven minutes in the first quarter with Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka on the floor at the same time, but the Miami Heat are winning the rebounding battle, and their points off offensive rebounds are a big part of why they have the lead at the end of the first quarter. The Heat have five offensive boards and the easy baskets they've been gifted off of those have helped them to a 26-20 lead.

LeBron James has been downright masterful thus far with 10 points and five rebounds, including three offensive boards. The Big Three have worked very well together, as Dwyane Wade has picked up four points and four assists, while Chris Bosh has tallied six points and three rebounds.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have six points each after getting off to a rough start. They started a combined 0-4 before Westbrook made a jumper at 10-6 to get going. Oklahoma City's small lineup has looked a bit better than the big lineup and Durant is beginning to find his rhythm, but the Thunder need to solve the problem of giving up easy offensive boards, especially to James.

For more on the game, stick with our 2012 NBA Finals, Game 3 StoryStream. For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula is Mightier and SB Nation Tampa Bay. For more on the Thunder, check out Welcome To Loud City and SB Nation Kansas City.

Check out the SB Nation Channel on YouTube

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Igniting Dwyane Wade: How The Heat Star Improved His Play In Game 2

Why did Dwyane Wade's production improve in Game 2 of the NBA Finals? Here are three things the Heat need to replicate in order to get another big performance from their second superstar.

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