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.