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5 Assists for Russell Westbrook, part of a statistical night (43-7-5) that only Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal have had in NBA Finals in the past 25 years10 Rebounds for James Harden on the night, including eight on the defensive end12 Lead changes in the game, 11 of which came in the second half. There were also eight ties15-for-16 The free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder on the night17-9 Fast break points advantage for the Thunder on the night33-19 The points advantage the Thunder held after the first 12 minutes of the game, thanks to an 11-1 run and a 16-4 run43 Points for Russell Westbrook on the night on 20-for-32 shooting48.8 Shooting percentage tonight for the Thunder, including 37-for-66 from two-point range
GAME IN REVIEWBy Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
RECAP: MIAMI – The Thunder jumped out to a 17-point lead off two major runs in the first quarter, but those initial haymakers were parried by the Miami Heat, who responded and took back Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club dropped a tough one 104-98, but it was not for a lack of effort or intensity. During the morning’s shootaround, Brooks said that his team was going to leave it all out on the floor, and that’s exactly what it did. Behind a tough collective team effort where the likes of Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka made important defensive plays and Russell Westbrook led the offense to success, the Thunder put itself in a position to win, but ultimately fell just short.
"Sometimes it comes down to a couple of plays," Brooks said. "I think our guys have played with great poise and composure all year. They made a few extra plays down the stretch."
The player who stood out throughout the night was Westbrook, who finished with a magnificent 43 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 45 minutes of action, including 17 points in the fourth quarter. After the game Westbrook downplayed his own performance because the Thunder didn’t come up with the win, but Kevin Durant explained how Westbrook’s offense kept the Thunder in the game throughout the second half.
"He had it going since the beginning of the game, and when a guy has it going, we have to keep feeding him," Durant said. "He was making shots and keeping us in the game and we just tried to play off of him."
More than anything, it was Westbrook’s leadership that was on display throughout the game as he continued to attack on nearly every possession in order to either create opportunities for himself or his teammates. Whether it was pull-up jumpers at the elbow or driving, crafty left-handed layups at the rim, Westbrook found ways to put the ball in the basket when the Heat were playing tight defense on his teammates. The explosive athletic ability was only one aspect of Westbrook and the Thunder’s success, but the way he led his team from the front was critical to giving the Thunder a chance to win.
"Russell got off to a great start and he finished the game with the same type of tenacity," Brooks said. "That guy competes every time. He’s all about the team, he cares about his teammates. He gives everything he has. He never misses a practice, never missed a game in four years and I’m proud of the way he played. Quite frankly I’m proud of the way our team played."
With the series now 3-1 in the Heat’s favor, the Thunder realize it has one more opportunity to win in Miami in order to force the series back to Oklahoma City for a potential Game 6. The leaders on this Thunder team, be it Westbrook, Durant, Kendrick Perkins or Derek Fisher will all keep the locker room in a positive mindset heading into Thursday night’s Game 5. Before the Thunder left the arena on Tuesday night, Westbrook outlined the attitude he and his teammates will use to approach Thursday night’s show down.
"Just keep playing," Westbrook said. "We’re going to stay aggressive, keep trying to find guys. Guys are going to stay confident. We’re going to stick together and try to get a win."
The first turning point in this game came after the Thunder built a 33-16 lead with 21 seconds remaining in the first quarter, but the Heat embarked on an incredible 19-2 run in the span of four minutes and 6.1 seconds to start the second quarter to tie the game at 35. Two Norris Cole three pointers along with two others from James Jones and Dwyane Wade sparked the run, while the Thunder missed its first four shots of the half, three of which were three pointers.
Eventually, the Thunder battled back and took a 94-92 lead with 4:21 remaining, but the Heat went on a 7-0 run thanks to a Chris Bosh layup, LeBron James three-pointer and a Wade finger roll that gave the Heat a 99-94 lead that would never dip below three again.
Plays the box score won’t show, first half…
Russell Westbrook takes a quick drop off pass from Kevin Durant to the cup for a lefty layup, then Thabo Sefolosha hustles to tip a loose ball to Serge Ibaka… Durant drives and dishes to Ibaka who hits Sefolosha in the corner for a three, then Kendrick Perkins grabs a defensive rebound that leads to a Westbrook jumper… Perkins’ tough defense and Ibaka’s rebound leads to a Durant drive and fall-away jumper… Beautiful spinning drive by Westbrook to drop off a pass to Perkins for an easy layup, followed by solid rotating defense and a Westbrook jumper… Ibaka shows well on a pick-and-roll coverage, then Westbrook uses two solid screens to hit a midrange jumper… Huge block in the paint by Sefolosha then Nick Collison snags a defensive rebound… Collison hustles on the ground and flips it to Perkins for a layup, then Collison snags an offensive board to regain possession… A crazy, up-and-down series results in a Durant steal that he takes down court to draw a foul in transition… Collison with a big block at the rim that James Harden gets out to Westbrook and Durant for a transition dunk… Solid defense by Harden and a good board by Perkins leads to a Durant to Collison jumper… Westbrook uses the crossover to free himself up and hit a jumper… Collison follows up a miss with a tip-in dunk after Westbrook’s aggressive drive, then Collison drives around Chris Bosh for a layup… Solid team defense that roatated and forced a 24-second violation, then a nice backdoor pass from Harden to Durant for a layup… Harden makes a steal that ends up in a Durant to Harden two-on-one fast break layup… Fisher hustles to get on the ground to force a jump-ball, then wins it… Sefolosha hustles back in transition to break up a fast break then a good box out by Collison on the defensive end… Westbrook ends a big Miami run with a driving lefty layup, then Durant hits a jumper in the short corner… Ibaka with a big block that leads to a Westbrook to Harden run out three pointer… Ibaka tips a rebound out to Harden then Harden comes down with an offensive rebound to draw a foul… Ibaka hustles to grab a loose ball, then Westbrook plays stand up defense to force a miss… Westbrook takes a pass from Harden for an elbow jumper… Harden with a strong box out, then Sefolosha hits Westbrook for a pull-up jumper and Westbrook draws a charge… Good box out on offense by Perkins to draw a foul, then Westbrook follows up a missed layup for a monster slam… Durant takes a pass from Westbrook and steps through to draw a foul… Harden with a solid box out to free up a defensive rebound then solid defense forces a miss.
Plays the box score won’t show, second half…
Westbrook drives and kicks to an open Durant for a three-pointer on the wing to re-take the lead… Good team defense leads to a difficult, contested miss at the end of the shot clock, then Durant drives and hits a fall-away… A beautiful spinning jumper from Ibaka after a broken play, then Westbrook hits Durant who finds Sefolosha for a jumper… Durant screens for Westbrook which leads to an open jumper then Ibaka blocks a shot to save a bucket… Harden hits Westbrook for a much-needed jumper at the elbow, then nice defense by Westbrook leads to a Harden run out and drawn foul… Westbrook pump fakes then hits Ibaka at the free throw line for a jumper, then Durant makes a crazy up-and-under move for a layup… Ibaka sticks with the play and quickly hits Westbrook who alertly flips up a layup before the shot clock expired… Nice in-bounds play frees up Durant who gets fouled and hits two free throws, then Harden snares a big defensive rebound off a missed free throw… Westbrook hits a jumper at the elbow as the clock runs down and Durant draws a one-shot foul… Westbrook makes an amazing steal and saves it in bounds to Harden then Durant snags an offensive board for a put back… Collison plays good straight up defense then Westbrook hits them with a Euro-step for a layup… Westbrook with brilliant patience to get through the lane and to the rim, then Westbrook again slides to the basket and hits an acrobatic shot… Westbrook takes a beautiful Collison screen and gets straight to the rim for a lefty finish and the foul… Ibaka boxes out and draws a foul, then Ibaka screens for Westbrook who nails another jumper… Ibaka with a strong box out on the defensive glass, then Westbrook draws a foul on a pull-up jumper attempt... Ibaka skies for another rebound, then Durant draws a foul off the ball and knocks down two free throws… Durant takes a pass from Westbrook on the wing, dribbles once and hits a jumper, then good pick-and-roll defense forces a Heat turnover… Durant contests at the rim and Westbrook gets to the cup for a layup… Westbrook uses an Ibaka screen off the in-bounds to get straight to the bucket, then Harden ties up Haslem for an incredibly important jump ball.