If you wanted to call Game 4 must-win, I sure wouldn’t argue with you. Because in NBA Finals history, a team up 3-1 is 30-0 in finishing the series.
Scared? Worried? Freaked?
Yeah, me too. Game 4 is big. Lose it, and you’re facing elimination on the road. Lose it, and there’s a strong possibility the last home game in Oklahoma City this season featured the bad taste of a no-call that might’ve forced overtime. Lose it, and the door is closing.
1. True or False: Panic time.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: False. But I will say, it’s close to that. It’s hard not to watch the way the last two games slipped away and think of major missed opportunities. The script has flipped. In the first three rounds, OKC’s opponents were playing the what-if game thinking of how they should maybe be up 3-1 or something. And now the Thunder are doing that. It’s never good to be playing the what-if game.
Patrick James, Daily Thunder: False. The Thunder recovered from being down 2-0 to the Spurs without home court. Being down 2-1 against Miami without home court isn’t easy, but it’s not harder than what OKC did in the last round. Panic would come if the Thunder lose on Tuesday. But the Thunder are only 48 minutes away from a win that changes the complexion of the entire series. They’re not far off. The series remains very much in doubt.
Clark Matthews, The Lost Ogle: False. If they lose Game 4, though, then freakout mode should commence.
Young: E. All of the above, and more. Scott Brooks blew it with the way he handled the end of the third quarter. Sitting Durant with four fouls and OKC up six can be justified, but not sitting Westbrook alongside him. That was just an awful choice. Complaining about officiating is a sign of weakness, but there’s no way to ignore that Durant was handed two of the cheapest fouls of the postseason, which is what ended up forcing Brooks hand to sit him in the first place. Missing nine free throws when you’re a team that shoots 80 percent and leads the league is simply unacceptable and should be punishable by taser today at practice. James Harden can go 2-10, score nine points and look generally lost in the game. And the Thunder can’t score 21 points the last 16 minutes of Game 3 of the NBA Finals and expect to win. When you lose, there’s a lot of blame to be passed around. And there’s a lot of hands with blood on them.
James: C. Lots of things have added up to put the Thunder in a 2-1 hole. But give OKC just half of the missed free throws from Game 2 and Game 3 and we are talking about a completely different series. Sometimes it really is that simple.
Matthews: The adjustment they made in the second half to keep the Heat out of the lane was a good one, and that needs to continue early in game 4. Also, OKC has to keep Kevin Durant out of foul trouble. That has killed them in the past two games. When he was assigned to Mario Chalmers, good things happened in Game 3. KD was able to save some energy for his offense, he could play the passing lanes, and the treat of fouling was low.