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Thunder can’t close deal in Game 3 loss to Heat

Miami overcame an Oklahoma City scoring run in the third period to defeat the Thunder last night in Game 3 of the NBA Finals in Miami. Game 4 is Tuesday night on ABC.

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Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) gets past Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) and power forward Serge Ibaka (9) from Republic of Congo to dunk the ball during the second half at Game 3 of the NBA finals basketball series, Sunday, June 17, in Miami.

Mike Ehrmann/AP

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The Oklahoma City Thunder, who went on a 14-2 scoring run in the early minutes of the third quarter to temporarily silence the Miami Heat faithful, collapsed in the last quarter and a half to lose last night to the Heat, 91-85, at American Airlines Arena. Miami now takes a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 on Tuesday.

The absence of the Thunder’s Kevin Durant, who was benched after committing his fourth personal foul just under six minutes into the third period, permitted Miami to go to work, throwing the momentum back their way. While surmounting the Thunder’s then ten-point lead, the Heat went on their own impressive run that, by the end of the game, amounted to a 16-point swing. Adding fuel to the Heat’s fire was the curious decision by Oklahoma City’s head coach Scott Brooks to bench guard Russell Westbrook (19 points on the evening) with five minutes in the game, leaving both he and Durant off the floor at a critical juncture.

Two statistics were particularly meaningful in this game’s outcome: though they only hit just over 37% of their field goals, Miami got to the free throw line an impressive 35 times and made 31 (89%), while Oklahoma City hit only 15 for 24 from the charity stripe. Emblematic of the Thunder’s struggles at the line was Durant, who, for the first time in recent memory, threw up two consecutive misses. For a team who led the NBA in free-throw percentage during the regular season, missing seven + free throws in each of the Finals contests is indication that the youthful team is feeling the pressure.

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