Thunder Shows 'Resiliency' is More Than Just a Word
MIAMI – To a man, the Thunder vowed to “leave everything on the court,” to play Game 4 as if it was Game 7.
They did that for 48 minutes, showing the toughness and courage it has throughout the season. It just didn’t get the reward for the effort.
In the end, it was the Miami Heat left standing in the fourth round of this championship bout here Tuesday. The Heat prevailed, 104-98, in a game that featured a career playoff-high 43 points by Russell Westbrook, had 12 lead changes, eight ties and every bit as much energy as the NBA Finals can deliver.
The Thunder trails the best-of-seven series 3-1, with Game 5 set for Thursday night at American Airlines Arena. But resiliency is not just a word with the Thunder; it is in its blood.
“One of the things I know, I can guarantee this: We have fight in us. That’s what we do,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “We play every game as if it’s the most important game.
“Obviously our back is up against the wall. It’s win or go home. We have a challenge ahead of us. We understand that. We’re playing a great basketball team, some of the best players in the game, and we’re going to compete for 48 minutes. We’re going to compete for 48 minutes one more night. Hopefully we can come back with the win, take one more game to Oklahoma City.”
On Tuesday, the Thunder did what it does every time it steps on the court: It gave itself a chance to win. It did so through a great start, the offensive brilliance of Westbrook and its ability to whether every Heat storm, no matter the circumstances or volume.
The Thunder jumped out to a 33-16 lead, but it knew the Heat would come back. Miami did that, quickly, hitting four of six 3-point shot attempts during a 19-2 run in a stretch of 4 minutes, 6.1 seconds that tied the game at 35-all.
Rather than crumble, the Thunder stood up and fought back. Kevin Durant drained a shot over the Heat’s Shane Battier coming out of a time out and Serge Ibaka followed at the defensive end by blocking Heat guard Dwyane Wade at the rim, igniting a run-out that ended with a James Harden 3 and the Thunder up, 40-35.
“You have to give credit to this opponent,” Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I mean, this is competition at its fiercest. They are a very good defensive team. They cover ground.”
The Thunder showed its courage throughout the second half. Miami opened the third quarter by hitting six of its first eight shots, turning a 49-46 halftime deficit into a 66-60 lead. The Heat would build that lead to seven points on four different occasions, only to see the Thunder claw its way back.
The Thunder forced three ties in the fourth quarter and took the lead, 94-92, with 4:21 remaining in the game on a 19-foot jumper by Kevin Durant.
“Definitely happy about our chances at that point,” Westbrook said.
But the next 2:19 did not go the Thunder’s way. The Thunder had two turnovers – it had only 11 for the game – and two missed shots during this critical juncture when the Heat ran off seven consecutive points.
“We’re going to stay aggressive, keep trying to find guys,” Westbrook said, looking ahead to Game 5 Thursday. “Guys are going to stay confident. We’re going to stick together and try to get a win.”