Thunder played gritty, kept putting the heat on Miami

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said: “That's what they do. They keep on coming. They're relentless.”
by Berry Tramel Published: June 13, 2012

Russell Westbrook couldn't seem to make a shot and the fighting Shane Battiers couldn't seem to miss.

The Thunder deficit kept climbing, even without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade getting hot, and Game 1 of the NBA Finals appeared in jeopardy.

But there's something we ought to have learned by now about this team. It plays with style and with joy. But the Thunder also plays with a fierceness.

These guys are gritty.

Down 13 points in the second quarter, the Thunder kept clawing and eventually won going away, 105-94 over the Heat to put Oklahoma City three wins away from an NBA championship.

“About halfway through the fourth quarter, we were thinking we were putting ourselves in a position to win, and then they just went away,” said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. “That's what they do. That's what they do. They keep on coming. They're relentless.”

That's almost exactly the same description Spoelstra used for Westbrook, who kept missing shots in the first half but never lost his zeal.

Westbrook is a fanatical player, and when he finally found the basket, he produced quite a game: 27 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds.

Westbrook made just three of 10 first-half shots but made seven of 14 in the second half. He didn't make an outside shot until 7:15 left in the game, when a 17-footer finally rolled in.

But Westbrook, just like his team, keeps playing.

“The thing about Westbrook, he'll just keep on coming,” Spoelstra said. “So it doesn't matter — time, score of the game, or what just happened in the play before. He's going to continue to be relentless, and we have to match that relentlessness.”

With five minutes left and the Heat still within striking distance, 89-83, Miami gave Westbrook the ultimate respect. It shifted LeBron James over to him.

Good idea. But with Wade on Kevin Durant, Westbrook passed to KD for a 20-footer that made it 91-83.

“I just know I can do a lot of other things other than score the ball for this team,” said Westbrook. “At the start of the third quarter, that's when we started playing our game, started being aggressive, rebounding the ball, just playing Thunder basketball.”

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