LeBron James lived up to his title as league MVP with his Game 3 performance. The three-time winner of the award continued his stellar Finals play with 29 points and 14 rebounds. However, the most valuable part of his game in Miami’s win did not come on offense. It was his lockdown defense that led the Heat to the win, putting them up 2-1 in the series. This is a different version Lebron James compared to the one we witnessed collapse in every fourth quarter against the Dallas Mavericks in last year’s Finals.
That LeBron James never scored more than 25 points in a Finals game. He also scored 18 combined fourth quarter points in those six games. This LeBron James has reached the 25-points plateau in all three games, and has combined for 21 fourth quarter points so far. If Oklahoma City cannot come up with a solution to stop King James, they are in big trouble heading into Game Four.
The turning point in this game occurred with 5:41 left in the third quarter. At this time, Kevin Durant picked up his fourth foul, forcing Thunder coach Scott Brooks to sit him for the rest of the period. Brooks’ decision to give Russell Westbrook a rest too simultaneously has come under some scrutiny. With their two best players on the bench for more than five minutes, the Thunder could not hold their ten point lead. Sixth Man of the Year James Harden had another abysmal outing, shooting 2-10 from the floor and missed on all four of his attempts from the three-point line. OKC desperately need some consistency from Harden if they want a chance to even this series on Tuesday night.
Heading into the Finals, everyone expected an exciting match-up between LeBron and Durant, the three-time league MVP and the three-time NBA scoring champion. However, no one could have expected such an epic battle between the two superstars in the first three games of the series. Each has scored at least 25 points in the first three contests, and both show no signs of slowing down. In fact, LeBron is averaging over 30 points and 10 rebounds in the first three games of this Finals series, a feat that has not been accomplished by a non-center since John Havlicek in 1969. The play so far of two of the league’s best players promises an dramatic ending to the series.
Game 3 Hero: LeBron James
This one is obvious. For the third straight game, James scored more than 25 points, finishing with 29 points, 14 rebounds and 3 assists. The league MVP had an abundance of big plays throughout the game, it was his defense however that truly gave the Heat the advantage in Game Three.
Game 3 Goat: James Harden
Heading into the NBA Finals, the Thunder’s biggest advantage was their bench, led by Sixth Man of the Year James Harden. In Game 3, Harden was a non-factor, shooting a paltry 2-10 from the field. At the end of the third quarter, the Thunder relied on Harden to keep the lead while Durant and Westbrook sat on the bench, something the NBA’s top reserve was unable to do.
Game 3 Surprise Player: Shane Battier
There was no true surprise performance in Game Three, so the award again goes to aging Heat veteran Shane Battier. Battier continued his remarkable defense, while adding a touch of offense as well, making both of his attempts from the three-point line. Battier is now 14 of 19 from the field in the first three games of this series, including 11 of 15 from behind the arc.
Game 4 Prediction: Thunder Rally to Take Game Four
For the most part, this entire series has been very even. All three games have come down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The Thunder cannot afford to fall behind three games to one, especially with Game 5 in Miami. Sometimes desperation forces a team to play their best. With an elimination game on the horizon with another loss, Durant must have his best game of the series. Game 5 could very well be the first 40-point outing of the series.