Down 3-1 in the NBA Finals, history says the Oklahoma City Thunder aren’t coming back.
Nobody has ever rallied from that deficit in the finals. Then again, few have erased a 2-0 deficit in any playoff series, and the Thunder did that just one round ago when they charged past the San Antonio Spurs.
So don’t write off the Thunder just yet.
“We didn’t get here just to make it here and say we made it to the finals. We want to come in here and we want to try to get a title,” Kevin Durant said Wednesday. “It’s all about, keep competing until that last buzzer sounds and that’s what we’re going to do. That’s the type of city we play for, a city that never gives up. That’s the type of team we are.”
The Miami Heat can wrap up their second NBA title with a victory today in Game 5. If the Thunder win, they would get the series back to Oklahoma City, where they are 9-1 this postseason.
“We’re not going to give up,” Durant said, though his quiet tone sounded more hopeful than defiant. “We’re going to keep fighting to the end and hopefully we can take this thing back to the crib.”
That became a little tougher after James Harden bruised his left hand during the Thunder’s 104-98 loss on Tuesday. Already struggling through two miserable games in Miami, Harden sat out a portion of practice Wednesday to ice the hand but is expected to play today.
The NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year has shot 2 of 10 in both games in Miami, falling to 13 for 37 (35 percent) in the series. He is averaging 10.8 points, six below his regular-season average.
“It’s definitely frustrating when those shots get open and don’t go in, but you’ve got to continue to play,” Harden said. “Especially for a player like me, I rely on more than just shooting, on just scoring the basketball. Obviously that aspect of my game has to be picked up in order for us to win games.”
Oklahoma City has had stretches where it clearly looks like the better team. The Thunder scored 58 second-half points in their Game 1 win, opened a 10-point lead in the third quarter of Game 3, then burst to a 17-point cushion in the first 11-plus minutes of Game 4.
Yet they’ve also had moments where their inexperience shows, both on the court and in the coach’s box. Coach Scott Brooks was criticized for keeping Durant and Russell Westbrook on the bench together too long in the third quarter of Game 3, and center Kendrick Perkins seemed to question his rotation pattern in Game 4, when Brooks stuck with the subs after the first unit’s quick start.
“I don’t think the game comes down to who plays and who doesn’t play. It’s how we play,” Brooks said. “And I think the last couple of games, they made a few plays that we did not make, and it always comes down to that. When the game comes down to a two-minute game, that’s all you can do is put yourself in that position and hopefully we can make those plays to win the game.”
Westbrook was sensational in Game 4 with 43 points and Durant scored 28, but the Thunder couldn’t put another player in double figures. Durant insisted when the series started it was not just he and LeBron James, but about the Thunder and the Heat.
The Heat have stepped up to support their superstar more, with Shane Battier scoring 17 points in each of the first two games, and Mario Chalmers coming up with a series-high 25 in Game 4.
Durant said he still has confidence in his teammates.
“If we miss a few shots, so what? We’re going to keep going back to them. That’s what teammates do,” Durant said. “But I’m going to keep being me. If I see a shot, I’m going to take it, and I’m going to keep trying to go at these guys. But I have faith in my teammates no matter what. I never think it’s too late.”
The Thunder’s situation against the Spurs seemed as bleak as the one they face now. San Antonio had won 20 straight games after winning the first two of that series, forcing the Thunder to win four times in five games against a team that hadn’t lost three in a row all season.
Instead, the Thunder needed only four games, becoming just the 15th team to win a series after trailing 2-0.
“We were down and everybody said the series is over,” Westbrook said, “and then we came back and won the series.”
So don’t tell the Thunder they can’t do it again.
“You know, this group of guys never give up, regardless of what happens,” Westbrook said. “We’ve been through many different situations throughout this playoffs. Just another task for us. We’ve just got to be ready to play for the next game.”