James the most influential player again
One team’s proficiency from the free-throw line and the other losing out a key player at a crucial juncture decided the fate of Game 3 of the NBA Finals at the American Airlines Arena here on Sunday night.
Miami Heat garnered 31 of its total points, including 22 of 24 in the second half, from the stripe to overturn a 10-point third quarter deficit and win 91-85 against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder.
Forward LeBron James was again the most influential player for the host with 29 points (with 14 rebounds). Guard Dwyane Wade totalled 25 and Chris Bosh had a quiet night with just 10. James also did remarkable job of policing Kevin Durant in the final quarter.
Though Durant topped the scoring with 25 points, his being forced to hit the bench after a fourth foul in the third quarter proved costly for Thunder in the final say. Russell Westbrook contributed 19 points.
The hard-earned result gave Heat a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven summit clash. Game 4, the second of the three here, is scheduled for Tuesday night.
“I think we only shot 30 per cent, but we built up some toughness now that we can find different ways to win,” said Heat’s head coach Eric Spoelstra.
The 160-minute game, played with pace and purpose, also saw a lot of ‘turnovers’ (24-second violation).
Heat, which led by a point at half-time (47-46), veered away from its game-plan in the third quarter and its long jump shots went awry. Thunder took toll of the mistakes to surge ahead with David Fisher coming up with just the 12th four-point play in the history of the Finals.
The visitor was threatening to run away with the match-up when it lost Durant. Heat bridged the leeway with Shane Battier and James Jones putting away six free throws (after being fouled when taking three-pointers) and James basketing his lone three-pointer.
Trailing 67-69 at the beginning of the final quarter, Spoelstra’s men, pepped up by amplified chanting of ‘Let’s Go Heat’, went for the basket and opened up a lead. It was not yet over as long shot tactics and a Wade error helped Thunder to be just a point behind.
Two free throws by Bosh resulted in a three-point lead with just less than two minutes left on the clock.
At 16 seconds and counting down, James converted one of his two throws to make it a two-possession game.
The result: Miami Heat 91 (LeBron James 29, Dwyane Wade 25, Chris Bosh 10) bt Oklahoma City Thunder 85 (Kevin Durant 25, Russell Westbrook 19, Kendrick Perkins 10).
Keywords: NBA finals