MIAMI, FL - JUNE 17: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat drives for a dunk attempt in the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Three of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 17, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The Big 3 of the Miami Heat once again led the team to a second straight tight victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder to take a 2-1 NBA Finals series lead. The Heat won despite shooting 38% FG percentage for the game, though they were clutch from the charity stripe with a surprising 89% rate from 31-35 shooting. LeBron James again played at an MVP-level with 29 points and 14 rebounds and was once again very aggressive down the stretch. Dwyane Wade also had a strong game with 25 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists and had several key baskets at the rim instead of settling for too many jumpers. Chris Bosh was not efficient from the field but had several big moments, grabbing 4 offensive rebounds and 11 overall and had a pair of key defensive stops against Kevin Durant in the second half.
Asked what it meant to be able to truly count on the production from the Big 3 together again, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra answered quickly.
"Playmaking...and that could be in a lot of different areas," he said. "Everybody obviously looks at the scoring but we're at a point right now of 'whatever it takes'. And if that means 30% in the second half, rebounding the basketball, getting some timely scores, we'll take it. We know this is going to be a grind. This is a microcosm of how this series will be."
The Thunder continue to have trouble consistently scoring against the best defense they've encountered in these playoffs. Kevin Durant scored 25 points but was once again hampered by foul trouble in the second half. The Thunder overcame the early slow starts that had plagued them during the Finals but this time their biggest issue is that they struggled to score during important stretches of the second half.
While their defense held the Heat to just 10 field goals in the second half, the Thunder gave up a good chunk of a 10-point lead midway through the third quarter with two clumsy fouls by Serge Ibaka on Shane Battier and later Derek Fisher on Mario Chalmers for three free throws each. They had good looks at the basket but could not knock down jumpers and for once, the Heat are enjoying the fact that the opposing team is facing questions about their poor free throw shooting while the Heat continue to shoot them well.
While the Thunder made one last push to cut it to one with less than two minutes left in the game, the Heat's defense made sure the Thunder wouldn't have a huge fourth quarter offensive outburst this time around and held them to just 18 points in the final quarter. Durant and Westbrook failed to continuously attack the basket in that quarter and instead settled for jumpers. The duo only took 6 free throw attempts combined for the entire game. With neither player having a monster game, the team desperately needed a lift from James Harden but he also struggled on 2-10 shooting.
Neither team executed well on offense but the Heat came through on enough plays on both ends of the floor down the stretch to outlast the Thunder. With just two more victories to get to the finish line, the Heat's Big 3 must somehow kick it up to another level to secure a victory of the all-important Game 4, a difference between taking the commanding 3-1 lead or have it tied up with home court advantage returned to the Thunder.