OKC's keys for Game 3

Oklahoma Thunder's Russell Westbrook speaks to the media before practice for Game 3 of the NBA...

Oklahoma Thunder's Russell Westbrook speaks to the media before practice for Game 3 of the NBA basketball finals in Miami, Florida June 16, 2012. Thunder will play Miami Heat in Game 3 of the NBA basketball finals on Sunday. (Andrew Innerarity/REUTERS)

Ryan Wolstat, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:14 PM ET

MIAMI, FLA. - My how quickly things can change when the season is down to a best-of-seven.

Just a few days ago, Oklahoma City was on top of the world, now, the race for the NBA title is down to just five games – three of which will be played in Miami.

The Thunder isn’t out of it, not in the slightest, this corner still believes the team will triumph in six games, but here are four keys to seizing back the advantage in Game 3:

n Don’t be horrible in the first quarter anymore: Pretty simple. James Harden insisted the Thunder’s awful opening quarter in Game 1 happened because the team had never been on such a big stage before and had some jitters. But that excuse was out the window on Thursday, yet the team played even worse. Harden and others still maintain the young team was still too amped up in Game 2 and wanted to do too much at home.

Look for the Thunder – a quick-starting team prior to this series – to get back on track early in Miami.

n Stop botching easy shots: Kendrick Perkins is making an art of missing 2-foot attempts, but he’s never been the strongest finisher so that’s probably not going to change. However, Thabo Sefolosha shouldn’t be blowing dunks or layups every game as he has been and Russell Westbrook’s track record says his first two games are an aberration.

The explosive point guard came into the game shooting 53% at the rim but hit only 1-for-4 in the first from that close and missed his only attempt of the second.

That followed a Game 1 performance where Westbrook went 1-for-3 at the rim in the first quarter.

Thanks to good work later in the games, he’s back around his overall average of finishing at the rim overall, but he needs to start games better by hitting those easy buckets because his teammates follow his lead.

More problematic for Westbrook has been the collapse of his usually solid mid-range game.

Normally a 44% shooter from mid-range, Westbrook is hitting just 25% of those attempts (4-for-16) through two games. Many of them are rimming out, so it seems to be just a matter of time until things come around.

n Don’t let LeBron James and Dwyane Wade get the shots they want: Yes, we know, those are two first-ballot hall of famers who have made careers out of doing whatever they like on the court. Still — it was too easy for the dynamic duo on Thursday.

James was able to get isolated down low far too often, OKC did not front him and allowed him to go to work. Bad idea. James took 73% of his shots at the rim and the Thunder is lucky he didn’t convert more of those great looks.

Meanwhile, Wade looked far more comfortable with more ball-handlers on the floor and Chris Bosh was allowed to roam around inside where he was highly effective – making 10-of-13 shots in the paint.

The Big 3 can’t dictate the game and cannot be allowed to do and go wherever they want on the floor.

n Go small: Yes, Perkins sets great screens and that’s why OKC head coach Scott Brooks loves him and sure, he’s an excellent defender and player – most of the time. But, against a Miami team that is mostly playing small-ball, he’s a liability. Nick Collison needs to get more time because his speed, smarts and ability to take a charge are more needed than what Perkins provides at the moment.

 


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