August 22, 2019

Miami Heat Takes 2-1 Series Lead Over Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin Durant, Small Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant, Small Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder Photo Credit: Getty Images

Miami Heat defeats Oklahoma City Thunder 86-85; Kevin Durant misses a last-minute shot that could have tied the game

Like the unpredictability of the stock market on a daily basis, trying to pick the winner of this year's NBA Championship on a game-by-game basis has been just as difficult. Game 1 saw the Miami Heat jump out to an early lead, only to have the Oklahoma City Thunder storm back (no pun intended) and steal the victory.

The Heat got off to an even bigger lead in Game 2 but the Thunder, after a furious comeback saw their star Kevin Durant miss a last-second shot that would have tied the game. With the series tied at one game apiece, the scene shifted to Miami for the next 3 games.
Oklahoma, playing in one of the loudest arenas in all of basketball, did not allow Miami to get off to a fast start as they did in the first two games although the Heat never trailed in the first period. LeBron James scored 10 points and Chris Bosh, starting his second straight game, chipped in six. Prior to the game, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks was asked if Bosh is all the way back from the injury that kept him out for all but one game in the Indiana series and all of the games against the Celtics.

"I think he's fine," Brooks opined. "I think anytime you step on the court, you are 100 percent."

Miami extended their lead to eight points in the second (30-22) after a Mike Miller block of a Kevin Durant shot led to a James lay-up. The Thunder responded by outscoring the Heat 24-17 the rest of the way to trail by 1 at the half. Durant and Russell Westbrook led Oklahoma with 13 each while James added six more. OKC's defense stifled Miami as they just shot 41% from the floor missing 7 of 9 three-point attempts. The Thunder took that momentum and carried it over to start the third.

Trailing by three (49-46), the Thunder takes the biggest lead of the game 64-54 after crafty veteran Derek Fisher nails a 3-pointer, getting fouled by James Harden. He calmly sinks the free-throw making him only the 12th player to accomplish such a feat. It must have awakened the Heat, as they went on to outscore Oklahoma 15-3 the rest of the way to take a 2 point lead (69-67) entering the final period. Dwyane Wade scored 6 of those points with James hitting a 3-pointer to give them the lead. It set up yet again a final period to what has been a stomach-turning series for both teams and their fans.

For more than 8 minutes, neither team could extend the lead to more than 4 points. Then James follows a dunk with a free-throw putting the Heat up by 7 (84-77) with 3:47 to go. Trailing by seven again, the Thunder clawed back to within one (86-85) with 6 straight points. That's as close as they would get as Miami hit five of their last six free-throw attempts. The Thunder did not help its own cause melting down by turning the ball over as Westbrook inexplicably threw the ball in the wrong direction after missing a three-point attempt.
Miami escaped with the win and a two-game to one lead in the series despite shooting only 37.8% from the floor and a skinny 30.8% from 3-point land. When your team converts 31 of 35 free throws, while the other team misses 9 (15 of 24) it makes a big difference in the outcome.

"I think what we focus on is every game is a different challenge," Heat's head coach Erik Spoelstra said afterward. "You have to find ways to put yourself in the position to win."

Brooks didn't come across as deflated noting that as in the other two games, this game was just as intense.

"I thought we did some good things, he said. Give them credit. They're a very physical team. I thought both teams played as hard as they can play."

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