With the series shifting to American Airlines Arena for the always pivotal game three, Miami managed to defeat the Thunder 91-85. The Heat was paced by their elite franchise players LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, to secure the six point victory. James put up another monster line with 29 points and 14 rebounds, while Wade added a near triple-double with 25 points, 7 rebounds & 7 assists. The third cog in the “Heatles” line-up, Chris Bosh, chipped in 10 points & 11 boards at another start in the Center position.
The lineup change that Erik Spolestra has installed seemed like it’d be a bit of a challenge, but Miami has responded well. The most notable change in the Heat’s play has been evident in the on-court performance of King James. After being criticized for his shortcomings in the NBA Finals, LeBron is averaging 30 points and 10 rebounds throughout this year’s championship series. With Oklahoma City’s lineup relying more on their athleticism and speed, LeBron James has found comfort in playing the power forward position. The reigning MVP’s play comes with a bit of irony; if Miami loses the series he’d face the bulk of blame and Erik Spolestra would most likely find himself unemployed. With all his doubters in the back of his mind, the Akron native has stepped up to the challenge of the Finals and subsequently made his head coach look like a genius in the process.
On the flipside, Scott Brooks has done an amazing job with his basketball team as well. Unfortunately, the last two games haven’t ended in the Thunder’s favor. The usually electric trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, were rather pedestrian in their performances in Game three. Oklahoma City’s “Big 3” scored a combined 53 points (Durant 25, Westbrook 19 & Harden 9), compared to Miami’s combined 64 points from their three 100+ million dollar men. Russ West is often chastised by the media for shooting too much and passing less. While the All-Star point guard hoisted fewer shots than Durant, his assist total (4) wasn’t indicative of someone who opted to pass more instead.
Despite the rather auspicious play of the Thunder, they came very close to stealing Game three in Miami’s arena. The turning point in the game can be traced back to the third quarter when Kevin Durant was called for his fourth foul, in the midst of OKC’s nine point lead. Durant’s foul trouble forced to sit until well into the fourth quarter, which halted nearly all of his team’s momentum. Instead, Miami finds itself in command of the series which continues on Tuesday night in a must-win game for the Thunder.
Game four will either find Miami on the verge of hoisting the 2012 Larry O’Brien trophy, or it will assure that a celebration will occur at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Steve Rivers has contributed to The Source, ESPN Rise and a host of other online publications. Follow him on Twitter: @TheKidSkoob.