MIAMI — It had only been about 14 hours since Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Scott Brooks and the rest of the Thunder sat down and talked about Game 3 and how they seemed let one get away.
Not long to really reflect on a brutal loss, one that has put Oklahoma City in a 2-1 hole. But it was long enough to watch some tape, and come to a few new conclusions.
“Well, obviously we looked at all five of his fouls 1,000 times in the last 12 hours or so,” Scott Brooks said of Durant’s foul trouble. “He has to do what he does.”
I think that’s about as edgy as Brooks is ever going to be when it comes to making a statement on officiating. If I’m translating that coachspeak right, he essentially is saying Durant was playing the same way he always has, but got tagged with a few questionable fouls.
Durant was a bit more straightforward.
“Well, a few of them I didn’t think were fouls,” he said. “But that’s how the cards are dealt. I’ve just got to deal with it. You know, I’ve just got to watch and see how I can stay out of foul trouble, but that’s not the whole game.
“I’ve just got to play my game, not worry about the officiating or what they do because they’re going to make mistakes,” Durant continued. “Everybody does it. We’re all human. So I can’t really concern myself with that. I’ve never been a guy that complains about it or gets mad at a ref for making a call, so I’ve just got to play through it and be myself, and whatever happens happens. I’m going to leave everything out there.”
The frustrations of Game 3 will linger, but that’s what happens when you lose in the playoffs. You look at a couple plays, a couple calls, a couple unlucky breaks and wonder what might’ve happened if those went the other way.
What the Thunder can really point to is the sloppy turnovers in the fourth, the nine missed free throws and the questionable substitutions late in the third that led to a mini-collapse. Eliminate those things, and none of this stuff matters. Eliminate those things and the Thunder are sitting pretty up 2-1.
“We felt we let two games get away,” said Russell Westbrook. “We honestly felt we had an opportunity to win both games, and tomorrow we think we have an opportunity to win again.”
Instead, the Thunder are facing an incredible uphill climb in total, but the mission is pretty simple still. Win one game of these next two. Do that, and you’ve got a home game with an opportunity to force a winner-take-all game in Loud City for an NBA championship.
A few notes and quotes:
- Durant on moving on from Game 3’s fourth quarter: “Yeah, I move on. I missed a three that went in and out, I missed a few shots going to the rim. But I’m going to shoot until my arm falls off in the fourth. That’s what I do. I don’t care if I miss it or if I make it. I believe in myself. I really don’t care what people say on the outside or how many points I post in the fourth or what big players have done in the past. All I do is worry about myself. I’m going to keep doing what I do. I’ve got 100 percent confidence in myself that I can do it, and when the fourth quarter comes around next time, I’m going to be as aggressive as I can.”
- Dwyane Wade on Game 3: “I think we got lucky that they missed some free throws.”
- Brooks on sitting Westbrook late in the third: “No, there was no message, I just took him out. He had a bad stretch. He was about to come out within probably the next two minutes to get his normal rest. As much as I love Russell, and everybody knows how much I love Russell, it’s hard to play 24 straight minutes at the high level that he plays at both ends of the floor in a major playoff game.”
- The score of the NBA Finals: Thunder 286, Heat 285.
- Brooks on taking Durant out with four fouls: “I think that’s pretty sound. He picked up the fourth one. I knew I was going to put him back in the fourth quarter to play the 12 straight minutes. On the fifth foul I knew I was going to play him the rest of the game. He’s smart enough to realize that he has five and he’s not going to get a sixth. But you just never know. You can get cheap fouls, and that happens, and you move on from it and you go to the next game.”
- Durant was asked what LeBron did different defending him in the fourth quarter. Answer: “Nothing.” Drops mic, press conference over.
- Westbrook was asked if anyone told him why he was sitting to finish the third quarter and he said no. He was then asked if he would’ve liked to know. “No. I mean, they don’t have to particular cater to what is best for me. You have to do what is best for the team.”
- Westbrook was asked if he’s ever considered telling Brooks he wants to stay in: “I don’t know. I mean, I kind of just the coach makes the decisions. He’s been making them all season. So I just roll with it.”
- The Thunder really seemed pretty confident and upbeat to me. I think they’re angry they’ve missed the chance to win the last two games, or at least one of them, but I think they feel like they’re completely fine. That’s kind of the vibe I got Monday, at least.
- Brooks on the road ahead: “We know we were down 2 0 against San Antonio, and everybody thought the series was over. But I know our guys, they’re very competitive, they’re very resilient. They’ve always showed that type of effort every game, and we’ve always been a great bounce back team.”