GAME 3 IS VITAL
Since the NBA implemented a 2-3-2 format for the NBA Finals in 1985, the team that has won Game 3 when the series is tied at 1-1 has gone on to win the championship 11 times out of 12 instances.
“There's pressure on both teams to win this game,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “But we have home-court advantage now and we want to keep it that way. We know that we're a very good team at home. That doesn't really change anything as far as the expectation of the game. We still have to come out here and do our job.”
Perkins said the Thunder is embracing the challenge of the 2-3-2 format.
“Right now, in order for us to win this series, we got to get a win on the road,” Perkins said. “It's just a good challenge for us. It's hard, and it's supposed to be hard. But at the end of the day, we still just got to go out there and play basketball.”
Miami knows exactly how the Thunder has felt the last two days because in last year's Finals, the Heat lost Game 2 at home and then hit the road for the next three games with an extra day of preparation for Game 3.
“We have to handle Game 3, and I know there's a lot of talk that we don't have to go back there, that we control our own destiny and all that,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That's kind of dangerous if you get too far ahead of yourself. What we have to understand is what they (Thunder players and coaches) dealt with yesterday, what they're probably dealing with today, all the motivation that they'll have to come in (Sunday) very aggressive, and we have to make sure that we're playing as a desperate team here at home, not taking that for granted. That (being at home) does not guarantee anything.”
Heat forward Shane Battier is 9 for 13 from 3-point range in the first two games.
“We've got to avoid the times we just lose him in transition, particularly early in games, which helps him get going,” Thunder forward Nick Collison said of Battier, who has started each game by making his first 3-point attempt. “When we get back, we're kind of lost. Those are the ones we need to cut out. If he gets shots because they drove and kicked it two or three times and we can't get to him, those are a little more acceptable as opposed to the one where we just lose him.”
Does Collison want a shot at defending Battier?
“Yeah, if I'm in there, I'll do it. We've had different matchups on him. We've just got to get a good feel for helping versus closing out. We've been helping, but we haven't been close enough to close out.”
Heat players said the key to Battier's success has been hot starts.
“The fact that he's getting open looks at the rim, that's huge for his psyche and what he does,” Bosh said. “The first couple of times, if you get open shots and they're not contested and they go in, you get a lot more confidence and it doesn't really matter, you don't see the defenders out there. He's really spacing the floor out for us, for me, LeBron and Dwyane and hopefully he can continue to do that.”
Battier is three wins away from joining a rare group of players who have won an NCAA national championship as well as an NBA title. He'd be the rare Duke alum to accomplish the feat.
“As long as I can do something Grant Hill didn't do, call it a day,” Battier said, only half-jokingly. “That's my idol. That's the guy I grew up watching. That's why I wanted to go to Duke — Grant Hill. So anything I can do that Grant Hill hasn't had a chance to do yet, whew.”
Maybe playing on the road for the next three games will be a good thing for the Thunder.
Something about being away from Chesapeake Energy Arena has brought the best out of the Thunder. Oklahoma City is 25-15 on the road this year.
“I think we actually play better when we're on the road,” Perkins said. “At home, I feel like we get too comfortable. I feel like we're too relaxed and feel like just because we're at home that we're supposed to win the game, or we are going to win the game instead of just going out there and attacking. When we're on the road, we have the mindset that we have to go out there and play with some type of force; grind, grit and just go out there and play hard.”
In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Boston, James shot 10 for 16 outside the paint during a 45-point performance that forced Game 7. In the three games since, he has shot just 4 for 26 outside the paint. … After taking all 11 of his shots outside the paint in Game 1, Bosh took 10 of his 13 shots from the paint in Game 2, making 5 of 10. … Through two games, the Thunder and Heat are tied for points in the paint at 88-88. … After shooting 68.3 percent (28 for 41) from inside the paint in Game 1, OKC shot just 44.4 percent (16 for 36) inside the paint in Game 2.
Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha on how tough it is for officials to correctly make a charging call: “It's very tough, very tough, between the flops that we've been seeing and the regular charges, I think it's a tough call to make. But sometimes it goes that way, sometimes it doesn't.”