If the Thunder want to have a chance to win a title, they must forget that they have only played three NBA Finals games. They must think they have played six. Oh, and make their free throws.
The Miami Heat hold a 2-1 series lead on the Oklahoma City Thunder and will look to extend their lead Tuesday night. If they do this, understand that the series is over. It’s indisputable. Not only has no team ever been able to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals but none of these teams even forced a Game 7. Also, none had to face a LeBron James as focused and relentless as he is at this exact point in time.
Numbers can only explain so much of his effect on the game (30.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 86.2 percent from the line in the Finals); he has become an absolute workhorse pulling the load of his past, his incessant critics and his entire team and pulling all of this spectacularly. He won’t allow his opponent to win three straight games on “his” team. So, coming back from a 3-1 hole against this monster? Not happening.
We live in a time of constant analysis of every single player for ever single game in every single professional sports league. There has to be an intricate formula in order to figure out how the Thunder can win, right?
The answer is actually clear. Very clear. They must shoot their free throws like they consistently did prior to the NBA Finals. Even though the abysmal 62.5 percent shooting they had in Game 3 forced many eyebrows to be raised, their first two games weren’t much better. They finished Game 1 shooting 74.1 percent from the charity stripe and Game 2 shooting 73.1 percent. Even though this could be considered decent for most teams, the Western Conference Champions shot 80.6 percent during the regular season and 83.5 percent during the first three rounds of the playoffs. This efficiency has been the key cog to their success during this shortened NBA season.
Fixing this cog must start with Kevin Durant. During their current two-game losing streak, Durant has only made six of his 10 free throw attempts while his counterpart LeBron James has made 18 of 20. No one else on the team comes close to getting to the line as much as the three-time scoring champ, so he should feel as though he is obligated (without the pressure) to put the ball in the hoop like the KD that shot 87 percent from the line in the Western Conference playoffs. Again, this small difference can completely change tonight’s finish.
With the way these games are going, Game 4 has a high probability of ending with one team winning by single digits. If the Thunder want to be this team that comes out on top and keep their championship aspirations alive, they must take advantage of what is given to them for free as they have done all year long.
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