A questionable substitution by the coach, more foul trouble for the superstar, and bad free throw shooting by just about everybody ruined Oklahoma City’s chances in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday.
All that didn’t wreck the Thunder’s hopes of winning the series. The Thunder trail the Miami Heat 2-1 after a 91-85 loss on Sunday, when they blew a 10-point lead in the third quarter. Kevin Durant went to the bench in foul trouble and Scott Brooks compounded the problem by replacing Russell Westbrook shortly after, both All-Stars watching when the game got away from the Thunder.
Oklahoma City was in worse trouble in the last round, dropping the first two games against the San Antonio Spurs. So they know they can climb out of the hole they’re in this time. “This is another great opportunity to show what becoming a champion is all about. You know, it’s not something that ever has come easy,” said guard Derek Fisher, who has won five of them.
“Every team that has won a championship has earned the right to be champions. And so we’re faced with another opportunity again tomorrow night to come together as a team and be confident in who we are and figure out a way to come out here and win a game. You know, things turn a great deal in these series with one game, and we have the opportunity to turn it tomorrow.”
Game 3 turned quickly, mostly because of the Thunder’s own mistakes.
Durant picked up his fourth foul with 5:41 left and the Thunder leading by six. Westbrook was taken out 40 seconds later for Fisher, who converted a four-point play before it all fell apart for Oklahoma City.
The Thunder twice fouled shooters behind the arc, made only 6 of 11 free throws in the quarter, and when the game was getting away from his team, Brooks kept Westbrook parked on the bench for the remainder of the period.
Westbrook appeared angry when taken out, slamming his hand against a chair. He said he was upset with himself, and Brooks said there was no issue between them on Monday.
“That’s over with. We’re moving on to Game 4,” Brooks said. “When Kevin got the fourth foul, that kind of changes the dynamic of that game because Kevin, I think he had 23 points at that time, things were going very well. So there was a lot of times that we had other things that we had to figure out. But I thought that stretch where we fouled the two 3-point shooters really was a big part of their comeback, and then we missed five free throws in that stretch, and as you know, we’re the best free throw shooting team in the league.”