A CHANGED MAN
Thunder center Kendrick Perkins was on the court when LeBron James took off a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey for the last time after losing to the Boston Celtics in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals.
Perkins let out a sigh and said the 2012 version of James is much different.
“He's a better player from then,” Perkins said during Monday's interview session. “He's a lot older. He's matured more. He's been to the Finals last year and he's got more help. He's on a better ballclub now.
“At the end of the day I feel like with LeBron, it's hard. You've got to try to take away his paint points and get him to try contested twos. I know over his last four playoff games he's something like 6 for 35 outside the paint on shooting.”
Veteran Heat forward Shane Battier also shared his thoughts on the new James.
“Focused, focused, focused,” Battier said. “As playful as LeBron can be, he's been pretty focused, I'd say, for the last half of the season. This is important to him.”
Three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant is averaging 8.5 points in the fourth quarter through 18 postseason games, but is averaging 12.3 points in the fourth quarter in the Finals. … Veteran Thunder guard Derek Fisher needs three 3-pointers to tie Lakers ex-teammate Kobe Bryant for second on the all-time NBA Finals list. Robert Horry holds the career 3-point record with 56. … Fisher's four-point play in Game 3 was the 12th in Finals history. Three of the last six have been surrendered by the Heat. … James' 29-point game Sunday ended his streak of five consecutive 30-plus-point playoff games, which was a Miami postseason record and matched his personal high of five straight with Cleveland. ... James has 13 30-plus-scoring games this postseason. The playoff record in one postseason is 16, shared by Chicago's Michael Jordan (1992) and Houston's Hakeem Olajuwon (1995). Jordan and Olajuwon both won championships those years. … Battier is 11 for 15 on 3-pointers in the Finals. Since the NBA instituted the 3-point shot in 1979, only Orlando's Rashard Lewis in 2009 (11) has that many 3-pointers in the first three games of the Finals. Entering Game 3, Battier had made at least four 3-pointers in three straight games. According to ESPN.com, the last player to make four 3s in four consecutive postseason games was Orlando's Dennis Scott (1995).
Television analyst and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy shared this observation during the Game 3 telecast: “If I had one regret about my time coaching Steve Francis, (it's) I tried to change too much too soon. That's why I love what Scott Brooks has done. Russell Westbrook has gotten better rapidly … and the point is, he has improved. He's improved dramatically."
JOHN ROHDE, DARNELL MAYBERRY AND MIKE SHERMAN