x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Miami Heat's experience trumps Oklahoma City Thunder's youth

Maybe this 'been there before' attitude for the Heat is paying off, as the Thunder have not been to the NBA finals before. And it shows.

Derek Fisher is one of only two players on the Oklahoma City Thunder roster who have played in the NBA finals before.
Derek Fisher is one of only two players on the Oklahoma City Thunder roster who have played in the NBA finals before.

After it was over, after Miami made the key plays and Oklahoma City melted in the final minutes, Erik Spoelstra, the Heat coach, was asked about his team withstanding the charges made at them by the Thunder in Game 3 of the NBA finals.

"We've been here before," Spoelstra said. "We've been in these situations."

Left unsaid: "And the Thunder have not."

Heading into Game 4 tonight in Miami, the young, athletic and entertaining Thunder find themselves at an early crossroads. After the Heat's 91-85 victory on Sunday, the Thunder are down 2-1 in the best-of-seven finals, with the next two games in Florida.

The kids are going to have to grow up in a hurry.

The Heat, of course, were in the finals last year. They took a 2-1 lead in that one, too, only for the Dallas Mavericks to win the next three. It was a defeat they have used as motivation all season.

It served them well on Sunday, enabl them to grind out a less than attractive victory

And then there are the Thunder, a precocious group making their first trip to the finals and led by a pair of 23-year-old stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and the 22-year-old James Harden.

"For as much as it is about new stars and up-and-coming players, teams that have won championships in recent years have been those with veterans, with experienced guys," said Derek Fisher, the Thunder guard. "We're in the process of trying to rewrite that."

Fisher brings the experience of having won five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he and Kendrick Perkins are the only members of the Thunder who have been in the finals before.

It shows.

The Thunder came out slowly in the first two games in Oklahoma City, looking eager and rushed, falling behind big each time.

They had to rally to win the opener, but could not pull off the same routine in Game 2.

On Sunday in Miami, they rallied to pull within one with 1:30 to play. Their next four possessions were all lamentable. Durant missed badly on a running jumper, Westbrook could not hit a three-pointer, Thabo Sefolosha threw away an inbounds pass and Westbrook missed another three-pointer.

And then there was their free-throw shooting. Normally one of the NBA's best, the Thunder hit just 15 of 24 free throws and have yet to hit 75 per cent in any of the first three games.

There is an edge to the play of Miami's LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, an almost desperate quality that comes with knowing these opportunities are not guaranteed to any team. It is an edge the Thunder are still trying to match, and running out of time to do it.

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