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NBA Finals: Thunder has overcome much, but it must now overcome doubt

This is unchartered territory, the biggest tests yet for Oklahoma City's basketball team. After Sunday's Game 3 loss to the Heat, who the Thunder now must overcome is doubt.
BY MIKE SHERMAN Modified: June 18, 2012 at 12:27 am •  Published: June 18, 2012

/articleid/3685491/1/pictures/1751803">Photo - Miami's Chris Bosh (1) dunks the ball as Oklahoma City's Kendrick Perkins (5) and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant watch during Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena, Sunday, June 17, 2012. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Miami's Chris Bosh (1) dunks the ball as Oklahoma City's Kendrick Perkins (5) and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant watch during Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena, Sunday, June 17, 2012. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

But Fish?

What happened to James Harden's old-man-at-the-Y game? What happened to his cool playmaking and wisdom even beyond his whiskers? That pass Harden threw into the Nicholson seats with the Thunder down four in the fourth? Who knows exactly what Harden was thinking, but it sure looked like he was going to make certain LeBron wouldn't steal it and dunk it.

At one point Sunday night I turned to Berry Tramel and said, “I've never seen anyone shooting 2-of-9 play this well.” Turnovers on two straight possessions in the fourth quarter made me reconsider.

Much is being made of the nine missed free throws, and for good reason. When a team hitting 82 percent in the playoffs misses 62 percent (5 of 8) during a critical stretch of the third quarter — when Durant misses two that would have put OKC ahead early in the fourth quarter — you wonder if The Moment has checked into this series and created its own mismatch.

I don't believe for a moment that Westbrook is bowed by the criticism. He cares little what you, I or anyone else thinks. But he sure looked unsure of himself on two big, big plays in the fourth quarter — the rushed 3-pointer that could have tied it with 29.9 seconds left and on the inbounds pass from Thabo Sefolosha, when Thabo expected one thing and Westbrook broke another.

With Westbrook, that's rare. That's uncertainty. That's doubt.

And for that, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade and Miami's defensive will and its relentlessness certainly deserve credit. Making championship plays when the other team believes a title is its destiny gets a little tough.

“That's NBA basketball,” Brooks said. “You've got to deal with it. You've got to move on from it. You've got to learn from it. You've got to get better from it.”


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