Game 4 of the NBA Finals will be a pivotal one. After the win in game 3, Miami will be looking to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. On the other hand, with a victory tonight OKC would reclaim home court advantage and even up the series.
Keys to the game
For two games in a row, Kevin Durant has found himself in foul trouble, being forced to sit out during key moments of the game. LeBron James continued to go hard at Durant in game 3, and when Durant didn’t foul him, he earned himself easy layups in the paint. Kevin Durant made it clear that he wanted to take on the challenge of guarding LeBron James, but let’s face it – he’s not strong enough. As amazing of a player as Durant is, he simply isn’t strong enough to stop the freight train that is LeBron James. Someone has to take turns guarding James in game 4, because the Thunder simply cannot afford to sit Durant down during important stretches of the game.
The key for Miami Heat in game 3 was getting into the paint. Apart from a James jumpshot, and two Battier three-point shots, Miami didn’t hit a single shot outside the paint in the first half. Collectively, Miami did a good job being aggressive, taking it to the basket and getting to the foul line, where they were 31-35 on the night. It is reassuring that despite everyone shooting poorly, Miami managed to find ways to score.
A turning point in the game was when Scott Brooks decided to take Westbrook out of the game in the 3rd quarter, together with Durant when he picked up his 4th foul. Yes, Westbrook takes ill-advised shots. Yes, he was having a tough stretch. Even so, that decision, indirectly, cost them the game. The only person left on the floor that could create his own shot was James Harden, who was ice-cold, shooting 2-10 from the field. This made the Thunder’s offense stagger for the remainder of the 3rd quarter, and Miami took advantage cutting into the deficit.
The key for Miami will be to continue being aggressive, and getting into the paint. If Durant is still on James for the majority of the game, James absolutely has to make sure he gets Durant into foul trouble. Dwyane Wade has to play better. Obviously he had 25 points, and he hit some timely baskets but he was really sloppy with the ball, turning it over 5 times. Some of these turnovers came at crucial moments as well. Wade is a great off-ball player, and doesn’t need to dribble it around and go iso as much as he did.
Just like all of the Heat players, Bosh was struggling with his mid-range shot, which is usually automatic. He needs to shoot it better. Speaking of shooting better, Chalmers went 1-8 on the night, and scored only 2 points. We have seen Chalmers taking it to the basket before, and if the shots aren’t falling it would be nice to see him being more aggressive, when the opportunity presents itself.
The Thunder fans should not put their heads down just yet. Harden was 2-10, Westbrook and Durant missed a key part of the game, and the best free throw shooting team in the NBA went 15-24 at the line. They had a double digit lead in the 3rd quarter, but fouled Battier and James Jones on three-point shots, which melted the lead away. Despite all of that, OKC were right in there. They were 1 point behind with 1:30 to go, and if not for a very silly foul by Harden and Sefolosha turning it over on the inbound pass, they might have stolen game 3.
Some say Thunder’s young age has cought up to them, and to some extent that is correct. They did make a couple of bone-headed plays down the stretch that eventually cost them the game, and that simply cannot happen. Durant has to stay out of foul trouble and they need to shoot better at the line.
This will be a key game, that very well might decide the outcome of the series. If Miami take game 4, they would give themselves 3 games to close out the series. It is a must-win game for the Thunder.