Thunder haven’t been that bad, but …
Oklahoma City is down to its last strike. Unlike trailing San Antonio 2-0 in the Western Conference final, the Thunder can’t afford another loss in the NBA Finals.
Miami took a 3-1 series lead with Tuesday’s 104-98 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena. Oklahoma City squandered a 17-point first-half lead and struggled down the stretch again.
Oklahoma City has played hard throughout the Finals but has not always played smart. Those mistakes might be too much to overcome going into Game 5 Thursday in Miami.
“We’ve done some things very well. I think we’ve done some things that we need to work on,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “When I talked to our guys, we talked about things that we need to work on. We point those things out, and we talk about things that we’ve done well, and we point those things out.
“I think that’s part of coaching. That’s part of leading our group. You have to teach them. You have to also empower them, and you also have to demand that they do things the right way, consistently for 48 minutes. I think our guys have done a great job with that.”
But it hasn’t been enough. The free-flowing, attacking style the Thunder employed with such consistency leading up to the Finals hasn’t been there. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are scoring, but they’ve really had to work for their shots.
“It’s definitely a different series,” Westbrook said. “There haven’t really been too many transition buckets either way. That’s what both teams do well. You know, it’s the NBA Finals, and teams are trying to win, and you have to be able to stop the opposing team to give yourself a chance to win the game.”
And the Thunder still believe they have a chance. Despite being down 3-1, they realize they could be leading in the series.
“It’s the little things, a play or two here or there, that we need to correct, but that’s basketball,” Brooks said. “That’s NBA basketball, playoff basketball. You’re not going to play perfect. And I tell our guys all the time, I’m not going to coach perfect, they’re not going to play perfect, but the effort has to be there, and it has to be for the right reasons, and it has to be for the team.”