Durant was fouled. Simple as that. With less than 10 seconds to go, Durant drove to the hoop for the go-ahead bucket that would’ve tied the game, but missed the shot because James had his arm in a vice-like grip.
Too bad. That was an amazing OKC rally that would’ve gone down as one of the greatest comebacks of all time (right up there with Bird’s steal and assist).
Don’t get me wrong. Game 2 proved every bit as exciting as ESPN promised with both Durant and James hitting key shots down the stretch in a close 100-96 contest that ultimately fell Miami’s way. But poor officiating – and seriously people, it was horrid – decided the game … It’s pretty bad when key moments are decided by a whistle, rather than a shot.
One thing’s fairly evident: the NBA wants seven games.
That’s not to diminish Miami’s efforts. James finally got some help from Wade, Bosh and a red-hot Shane Battier (who finished with 17 points and hit 5-of-7 from downtown). OKC looked pathetic in the first half and remarkably disjointed. Durant and Westbrook both got into early foul trouble, which cost them some playing time in the first half; and the Thunder supporting players, namely Sefolosha and Ibaka and Fisher, failed to make much of an impact (Fisher missed a pivotal 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that would’ve brought OKC within three points). Harden was the lone gunman off the bench with 21 points – he was solid on both ends of the court.
But OKC needs to come out with more intensity right from the get-go. They’ve fallen into a come-from-behind pattern that, for what it’s worth, has so far worked in these playoffs. Hell, if the ref blows the whistle on James it would’ve worked tonight too. Even so, OKC came out a little flatter than usual and cannot afford to follow suite in Miami.
I still say the Thunder rally and take this series. Miami looked terrific tonight, and FINALLY utilized its big three to great effect down the stretch (instead of relying on Chalmers). But Battier won’t continue to put up 17 points per game; and Durant and Westbrook won’t finish the first half with just 15 points between them that often.
The problem with OKC has always been their reliance upon jump shots. Tonight those shots didn’t fall early – simple as that. I think they’ve learned a valuable lesson tonight: the Heat are not the Spurs, Lakers, or Mavericks. They’re an entirely different beast altogether – capable of exploding offensively. To beat Miami, OKC will have to step it up a notch.
Or at least stay within single digits so that the miracle fourth quarter come back isn’t so hard.
NOTES: James finally proved his clutch-ness tonight by making a slick bank shot and two key free throws down the stretch – it certainly helps when you know you’re gonna get every call … Westbrook took far too many shots tonight; his head wasn’t in the game for whatever reason for those first two quarters; Brooks needs to instruct him NOT to take 26 shots unless he plans on making 20 of them … Fisher missed some BIG shots in this game, which he would’ve made if the opposing team was the Jazz … I loved Durant’s monster dunk over Battier, and those amazing treys in the fourth quarter; had the Thunder won this game, I think the world entire would’ve ran out and purchased his jersey – stupid refs.