Thunder must seize the moment

Thunder centre Kendrick Perkins scores a basket in front of Heat forward LeBron James during Game 3...

Thunder centre Kendrick Perkins scores a basket in front of Heat forward LeBron James during Game 3 of the NBA final at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Fla., June 17, 2012. (MIKE EHRMANN/Reuters/Pool)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:38 PM ET

MIAMI - Kendrick Perkins has a message for his teammates: Don’t waste this moment.

Perkins, the veteran Oklahoma City Thunder centre has already been to the NBA final twice while with Boston.

On Monday, while holding court with the media ahead of Tuesday’s crucial Game 4, Perkins said he lets his mostly young colleagues know all the time what’s at stake.

“One of my jobs is to constantly remind them that we can’t take this opportunity for granted. We have to make sure that we approach every game like it’s our last. You never know if you can or when you will make it back to the finals,” Perkins said.

“Right now we’ve got the best opportunity in the world, Game 4 of the NBA final, some of our childhood dream, so we just have to make sure we take advantage of it.”

Perkins knows from experience.

He helped the Celtics end a long championship drought in 2008, but got injured in Game 6 two years later and could only watch helplessly as the Lakers gained revenge in Game 7.

“All year long they always asked questions about it. It’s the best feeling in the world when you win one and then you lose it’s like … the end of the world,” he said.

“I try to make them understand it’s like heaven almost (when you win).”

Perkins knows that many in the opposing locker room are well aware of what the other side of the coin is like.

“They had that opportunity last year and came up short. That’s gotta be on their mind, they probably don’t want to let another title slip away,” Perkins said.

Miami was up 2-1 on Dallas before eventually losing the series.

“It’s the worst feeling in the world to get to this chance, all you’ve got to do is beat the team in the four games and knowing that you’re right there and just losing it sticks with you all summer, all year long and it’s hard to regroup from.”

To avoid being in that situation again, Perkins wants to see his team move the ball better and feed it to him inside when the far smaller Shane Battier is on him.

“We actually don’t throw the ball inside at times and make them pay for guarding me (it’s) disturbing at times,” he said in his matter-of-fact way.

“If they put Shane on me and (the Thunder) continues to pop jump shots instead of work it inside then I think (the Heat) win that battle.”

Thunder superstar Kevin Durant struggled with turnovers and fouls in Game 3 but does not want to be switched off of LeBron James.

“LeBron is a tough guy to guard. Everybody knows it. But I’m going to play my hardest and try and play smarter. Hopefully I’ll put myself in that position again, and I’ll do a better job,” Durant said.

Durant was adamant that he shouldn’t have been forced to the bench for a crucial spell in the third quarter due to foul issues.

“Well, a few of them I didn’t think were fouls. But that’s how the cards are dealt,” he said.

“I’ve just got to deal with it. You know, I’ve just got to watch and see how I can stay out of foul trouble, but that’s not the whole game. I’ve just got to play my game, not worry about the officiating or what they do because they’re going to make mistakes.”

He’s got that right. While James seems to have the old “Jordan Rules” working for him (ie. sneeze on him and it’s a foul), it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a star of Durant’s caliber not get a favourable whistle.

Now, Miami is playing some great defence against a phenomenal offensive squad, but the bottom line is Durant should be getting more calls based on the treatment Miami’s James and Dwyane Wade get.

Expect things to even out in Game 4.

In more ways than one.

WINNING GAME 3 WAS HUGE

The numbers are encouraging for the Miami Heat, owners of a 2-1 series lead over Oklahoma City.

In the last 20 NBA finals, the team that got to two wins first has won 18 times.

Teams up 3-1 — a list the Heat can join with a win on Tuesday — are a perfect 30-0 in the finals.

Still, that doesn’t mean this series is wrapped up.

The Heat franchise knows that. Miami won the 2006 title despite not being the first to two wins and the team also lost last year to Dallas DESPITE achieving the feat.

As well, the Thunder took Game 1 and since 1984, the initial winner has eventually prevailed 71% of the time (20-8).

Based on those stats and on past experience, the veteran-laden squad is about as far away as a team can get from overconfident at this point.

“We know they’re going to bring their best game. We were down 2‑1 to Indiana in the same situation on the road, and we made a huge effort for Game 4,” said Shane Battier.

“We’re going into this thing (Tuesday) expecting their best effort.”

Blowing a 2-1 lead against the Mavericks is an experience these Heat players don’t want to repeat.

“Ya, of course it stuck with us, all the way to this day. But we’re a totally different team than we was last year,” said LeBron James.

“We understand what it takes to win, and we’ve used that motivation, and we will continue to use that motivation.”

James, averaging a rather silly stat line of 30.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists in the finals doesn’t care that the games haven’t exactly been works of art.

“I don’t give a damn how we get four (wins),” he said.

“We can win 32‑31. It doesn’t matter to me.”

HARDEN NEEDS TO GET GOING

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook might be Oklahoma City’s key players, but if the team is to get back into this final, the real James Harden has to show up on offence.

You know, the sixth man of the year. The guy who averaged 23 points on 56% shooting in three road games against NBA-best San Antonio earlier in these playoffs.

The Game 2 Harden would also suffice. Harden shot 7-for-11 for 21 points in OKC’s lone win of this series, but has gone a horrid 4-for-16 for 14 combined points in the two losses.

Harden is a master of creating space for himself, but has had an extremely difficult time doing so against Miami’s aggressive defence.

Still, the young guard is keeping confident, insisting on Monday that things will come around and saying he isn’t down on himself.

“Not at all. I’m not just a scorer. I had six assists, six rebounds, pretty good defence,” Harden said.

“That’s what my role is, not just scoring the basketball. Whatever it takes to help us win, guarding LeBron in the fourth quarter, and trying to find ways to impact the game.”

While the offence is not there, Harden has been one of the Thunder’s top defenders, including against LeBron James who otherwise has run wild.

“He’ll get going,” Westbrook said of Harden.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Harden missed some chances he usually converts in transition but otherwise was solid in Game 3.

“Defensively he was into it. He was always in good help position. He was good one‑on‑one,” Brooks said.

“You’re talking about Wade and LeBron, those guys are the best players in the league at their positions, and they’re hard to guard. But I thought James did a very good job of guarding them.”

Now he needs them to stop doing such a good job of guarding him.

KEY MOMENTS

NBA games can change on certain plays. A few significant moments can decide the outcome of a 48-minute contest.

Here are six of the most impactful points of Game 3 of the NBA final:

7:22 seconds remaining, 1st quarter

LeBron James puts in Miami’s third layup on its first five baskets, the other two were dunks as OKC could not stop the Heat’s inside game.

2.3 seconds remaining, 2nd quarter

Russell Westbrook answers a Shane Battier three with one of his own to cut Miami’s lead to one.

5:41 remaining, 3rd quarter

Kevin Durant picks up his fourth foul with OKC leading by seven points. He has to sit down and the Heat takes advantage with a huge run.

52 seconds remaining, 3rd quarter

James hits a three to put the Heat ahead by two heading into the final quarter. Miami is 12-0 in the post-season when leading after three.

1:58 remaining, 4th quarter

Dwyane Wade loses the ball and Thabo Sefolosha throws down a dunk at the other end pulling OKC within three.

29.9 seconds remaining, 4th quarter

Westbrook misses a potential game-tying three-pointer, Miami gets the rebound to seal the win.


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