A lot of the chatter surrounding Game 3 of the NBA Finals has focused on two things: Russell Westbrook and the importance of Game 3. Let’s take a look at both of these issues, starting with the former.
Westbrook has already come out and said that he won’t change how he plays due to criticisms. Thunder Coach Scott Breaks has echoed a similar sentiment, saying “We need Russell to score”. This is largely true; The Thunder have gotten this far with Westbrook being a score-first point guard, and it wouldn’t be very wise for them to try to play a different style of basketball at this point in the season. But having Westbrook defer just a little bit more would probably be a good option. I don’t see the Thunder winning a game where Westbrook shoots fourteen percent lower than Kevin Durant simply because the Thunder are at their best when Westbrook, Durant, and James Harden all shoot the ball at a high percentage. They need their big their “Big Three” to play at their full capabilities especially against a team like Miami that has two players (LeBron James and Dwayne Wade) that can take over a game at any time and a third (Chris Bosh) who is the best low-post scorer in this series outside of LeBron. It’s pretty safe to assume that Durant and Harden will shoot well – they play consistently solid basketball. Westbrook is the wild card – what he does sets a tone for how the Thunder play. When he shoots well, the Thunder verge on being unstoppable offensively. But when he shoots bad, they have to rely on Durant to be special for the whole game, which as LeBron can tell you, doesn’t always work out to well.
Now let’s talk about the latter. Historically, the winner of Game 3 goes on to win the series 55% of the time. This statistic, by my estimation, isn’t all that significant; just last year the Heat beat Dallas in Game 3 and went on to lose the series to the Mavericks. Nonetheless, this stat is one for debate.
I tend to that Game 3 will be a lot like the first two, meaning that it will come down to the end. I also think that this game is more important for the Thunder than the Heat because they lost Game 2. They need to reestablish their momentum, and steal home court back from the Heat, who don’t have as nearly a loud and devoted home crowd as the Thunder do.
To me, this game comes down to how Russell Westbrook, if he shoots bad early and the Thunder falls behind big early, the Heat should win, especially if Wade plays as well and is as active as he did in Game 2. If Westbrook shoots well early, and the game stays close, I favor the Thunder. Durant has been magical in the fourth quarter these whole playoffs, and when he’s on, the Thunder appear to on another level than the Heat. I favor the latter to occur, and am going to take the the Thunder 97, Heat 93 in another sensational game.