Kevin Durant is perhaps the most skilled scorer in the NBA. Using his prodigious skills, he has won the league scoring title in three consecutive years. He can score from the perimeter. He can score on the move. He can score at the rim. The 23-year-old Durant can score from just about anywhere. But he cannot score from the OKC bench.
Everything was bouncing Oklahoma City's way early in the second half of Game 3. The Thunder had (temporarily) stopped letting LeBron James and Dwyane wade into the paint. At the half, the Thunder was being out-rebounded by Miami, 25-16. The Western Conference champs then opened the third quarter by dominating the glass, 14-3. The Thunder went ahead and began adding to its lead midway through the third.
Then Durant picked up his fourth foul with 5:41 to play in the quarter.
With KD tethered to the bench, Russell Westbrook piloted just the sort of ramshackle stretch that sends his critics ranting. Over the span of three possessions, Westbrook missed a layup, committed a charging foul and turned the ball over. Before you could say "Skip Bayless Said So," Westbrook was also parked on the bench.
With its dynamic duo watching, Oklahoma City lost the plot at both ends of the floor. Serge Ibaka and Derek Fisher each committed a foul on 3-point attempts, allowing Miami to chip away at the lead with six free throws.
"[The Thunder] lost this game in the third quarter," said Magic Johnson in deference to the fact that the Heat ended the quarter on a 15-7 run after Durant's fourth foul.
The Heat held a 69-67 lead entering the fourth. Durant had broken an NBA Finals record scoring 33 total points in the fourth quarters of the first two games but things didn't go his way in the final 12 minutes on Sunday night. He was held to just four points in the fourth quarter. Despite Durant's late struggles, OKC reeled off six straight points to close within a point with 1:30 remaining in the game.
While the fouls whistled against Durant and his teammates may have fans in Oklahoma City grumbling, it may be missed free throws when Thunder players were fouled that made the difference. Oklahoma city missed nine of 24 free throw attempts, including seven in the second half. Miami would hold off the Thunder's late charge to win Game 3, 91-85.
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