NBA Finals 2012: 5 Reasons the Thunder Can Come Back
Game 4 is tonight at 9 p.m. EST and the Thunder really need a win in tonight's game in order to keep hope alive for their first Larry O'Brien trophy since moving from Seattle.
The Thunder have made it a habit of answering adversity and fighting to the final buzzer throughout the 2012 NBA Playoffs and that won't stop now.
Oklahoma City may be young, but they have the players, the attitude, and most importantly the ability to win this series.
In order for Kevin Durant and company to accomplish this task there are five things that they will need to use to their advantage each game going forward.
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Home Court Advantage
Yes, Miami won Game 2 in Oklahoma City but that was the lone loss the Thunder have suffered at home during the playoffs.
Their last loss at home before Game 2 was April 25 — 106-101 to Denver in the regular-season finale.
The Thunder are an astounding 9-1 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, the best record in the postseason.
Analyst and opponents have commented all season about the fans in Oklahoma City.
Heat superstar Dwayne Wade on loudness of OKC arena: "I was at the free throw line. Probably the loudest I've heard anything.''
All the Thunder need to do is win one game in Miami to guarantee that the series will return to Oklahoma City.
Free Throw Shooting
Oklahoma City is widely known as one of the best free throw shooting teams in the league.
Through three games they have shot only 68 percent from the charity stripe.
A big disparity from the 82 percent they had been shooting during the playoffs and the 80 percent they shot during the regular season.
In this series every game has come down to the last few minutes of the game. Getting to the free throw line and converting them into points is critical to the outcome.
Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden have been the biggest culprit of missed free throws.
Their averages dropped from the mid eighties during the regular season to 78, 74 and 71 percent respectively in the NBA Finals.
If OKC can start shooting above 80 percent from the free throw line it could drastically change the series.
Kevin Durant led the league in scoring for the third straight year this season.
He has carried that over into a phenomenal run in the 2012 playoffs averaging 28.3 PPG on 52 percent shooting, 7.5 RPG and 3.8 APG through 18 games.
In Games 1 and 2 Durant was able to dominate the fourth quarter, pouring in 17 and 16 points respectively.
However, in Game 3 Durant was held in check by the defense of LeBron James and the Miami Heat. KD was only able to score four points on 2-6 shooting in the fourth.
That result looks to be more of a fluke than a trend. Durant played the entire fourth with four fouls and was less aggressive attacking the hoop in fear of fouling out of the game.
Look for Durant to have a big Game 4 and to keep the pressure on the Heat with his offense in the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma City showed at the end of Game 3, and at other points of the Finals, that they can keep Miami out of the paint.
The Heat have done well defensively against the Thunder, but the difference is that OKC is a better jump shooting team.
In Game 3 the Heat shot an abysmal 16 percent from outside the paint.
Oklahoma City is shooting 31 percent from outside the paint for the series, down from the 41 percent they shot against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.
The Thunder need to continue to force Miami to take shots outside the paint, as outside shooting has been a problem for the Heat since their Big Three of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh first came together.
James Harden had a very poor outing on Sunday night, his second of the series, but it hasn't been from a lack of trying.
Harden shot 2-10 in Game 3, something you should expect him not to repeat tonight.
During the Heat and Thunder's two meetings in the regular season Harden averaged 15.5 PPG 5.5 APG and 4.0 RPG.
In the Finals Harden's averages have all dropped down to 11.7 PPG 3.7 APG and 3.3 RPG.
Oklahoma City is going to need more contribution from their third star if they hope to come back and win the series.
Harden's ability to get into the lane and create plays for himself and others will be crucial to OKC's success at the end of games.