NBA Finals: Heat tops Thunder in Game 4, leads series 3-1
Despite 43 points from Russell Westbrook, the Thunder couldn't hold off the Heat. Miami rallied from 17 points down for the win.
MIAMI, Fla. — Russell Westbrook wasn't trying to silence his critics.
But even when he did, he supplied them more ammunition.
Such is life for the Oklahoma City Thunder's All-Star point guard.
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Westbrook was fantastic in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, scoring a game-high 43 points with seven rebounds and five assists in 45 minutes.
Yet, it will be the last of his three fouls that will capture much of the basketball world's attention while looking back on the Thunder's 104-98 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday night inside American Airlines Arena.
Westbrook delivered an ill-advised foul to Mario Chalmers with 13.8 seconds remaining, sending the malign but red-hot Miami guard to the foul line where he sealed the Thunder's fate with swishes that swelled the Heat's series lead to 3-1.
The foul came after Heat guard Dwyane Wade missed a floater while falling out of bounds with 17.3 seconds remaining. The rebound fell to Miami forward Udonis Haslem, but Thunder guard James Harden got his hands on the basketball to force a jump ball before Haslem could go back up with a shot to beat the expiring 24-second clock.
Under league rules, the 24-second clock remains the same as when play was interrupted or is reset to five seconds, whichever is greater, any time on jump balls retained by the offensive team as the result of a held ball caused by the defense.
When the jump ball got tapped out to Chalmers with just five seconds showing on the shot clock, Westbrook chopped down on Chalmers hands after a dribble in the corner.
Just three seconds were left on the shot clock. The Thunder was down only three.
An errant shot by the Heat and a rebound by the Thunder, or a shot-clock violation, would have given Oklahoma City a chance to tie the game inside the final 15 seconds.
“It was just a miscommunication on my part,” Westbrook said. “Nothing I can do about it now.”
The irony is without Westbrook the Thunder wouldn't have even been in the game. And after the buzzer, everyone from Scott Brooks to Royal Ivey stuck up for Westbrook, stressing that Westbrook's foul didn't cost the Thunder the game.
“It was a tough play. Could have been a communication thing,” Brooks said. “That play, I tell our guys, one play does not determine the outcome of a game. There's 200 plays involved in every basketball game. It doesn't come down to one play. It was a tough play, but we move on from it; learn from it and move on from it.”
Westbrook's point total was three more than his previous playoff-high, set in a triple-overtime win at Memphis last postseason. His 43 were two shy of his regular-season high.
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