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By Andy Roth, Contributing Editor - Archive - Email
The Pulse of the NBA
New York, NY (Sports Network) - Bad coaching, bad foul shooting, a bad game by James Harden and some really dumb mistakes on defense, all cost the Oklahoma City Thunder in their Game 3 loss to the Heat, which put Miami up two games to one in the NBA Finals.

BAD COACHING

Kevin Durant went to the bench after picking up his fourth foul with 5:41 left in the third quarter. Just 40 seconds later, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks took Russell Westbrook out with his team up 60-54, leaving him with James Harden, Derek Fisher, Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins on the floor.

Outside of Harden, who was struggling as it is, Brooks had four offensively- challenged players out there - none of whom could create their own shot off the dribble.

So it's no big surprise that the Thunder went ice cold, hitting just 1-of-9 shots to close out the quarter and after leading by as many as 10 in the third, they trailed, 69-67, heading into the fourth.

There are two words that come to mind to describe Brooks' decision to sit Westbrook with Durant already on the bench with foul trouble: major stupidity

BAD FOUL SHOOTING

The Thunder led the NBA in free throw shooting during the regular season, hitting nearly 81 percent of their shots. However, you never knew it by last night's performance.

They connected on just 15-of-24 from the line (62.5 percent), which included a pair of misses from their two best free throw shooters in Durant and Harden.

Keep in mind that this wasn't the first game of the series that poor foul shooting contributed to a Thunder loss. OKC was 19-of-26 from the line (73.1 percent) in Game 2 with Durant (4-6), Westbrook (5-7) and Harden (5-7) combining to shoot just 14 of 20 (70 percent).

Anymore free throw shooting like this and I may have to pull out the word "choke".

JAMES HARDEN

Last night's performance by the Sixth Man of the Year winner was his second awful one of the series.

With Durant saddled in foul trouble, the Thunder needed Harden to step up. What he did was basically a disappearing act and seemed to be wilting a bit under the pressure of the finals.

He was 2-of-10 from the floor, including 0-of-4 from three-point range and had just 9 points in 34 minutes.

While Durant and Westbrook were both on the bench for the final five minutes of the third quarter, Harden scored just two points, missing all three shots from the floor.

If the Thunder are to come back and win this series, he has to play a lot better than he has so far.

DUMB DEFENSIVE MISTAKES

Unfortunately for Harden, he makes this category too.

After Russell Westbrook missed a game-tying three pointer with 29 seconds left in the game, Brooks was yelling no-foul from the sidelines in the hope that the Heat would miss and the Thunder could still hit a three to tie the game.

Harden, however, stupidly decided to play up on LeBron James and go for a steal but ended up fouling him. James hit one of two free throws to clinch the game.

It's moments like this where you hear people say, "What was he thinking?", and I simply say he wasn't thinking.

But Harden wasn't the only charitable Thunder player to hand Miami some easy points.

On consecutive Heat possessions in the third quarter, first Ibaka and then Fisher fouled Shane Battier and James Jones respectively on three- point attempts. Both players hit all three free throws to help the Heat quickly reduce the Thunder's nine point lead down to three.

It came down to one thought, "don't leave your feet on defense?"

QUICK DRIBBLES
  • I sent Commissioner David Stern some pamphlets on how to perform the Heimlich maneuver to distribute to the refs working the NBA Finals. If they ever swallow their whistles, like they did in the closing seconds of Game 2 on LeBron James' no foul call on Kevin Durant, they will be ready for resuscitation.

  • A lot of New York Knicks fans aren't happy about recent comments made by Phil Jackson. I just think it's a matter of the truth hurts sometimes. There were rumors that Jackson, who coached the Bulls and Lakers to a combined 11 titles, would be hired as New York's next head coach before Mike Woodson was given the job permanently.

    But in an interview with HBO's Real Sports that will air Tuesday, Jackson told correspondent Andrea Kremer that he was never approached about the job by Knicks owner James Dolan and that was just fine with him.

    "I wasn't gonna take that job, that's for sure," said Jackson, who won two NBA titles while playing for the Knicks from 1967 to 1978.

    The idea of returning to the Big Apple was tempting for Jackson, but in the end he didn't want to take on what he called a "clumsy" team.

    What's clumsy mean?" Kremer asked.

    "Well, they don't fit together well. (Amare) Stoudemire doesn't fit well with Carmelo. Stoudemire's a really good player. But he's gotta play in a certain system and a way.

    "Carmelo has to be a better passer. And the ball can't stop every time it hits his hands," Jackson continued. "They need to have someone come in that can kinda blend that group together."

    These are not exactly new or shocking observations about the Knicks, but I guess the fan base has a hard time dealing with reality.

  • Former Portland Trailblazers guard Brandon Roy, who retired last December due to chronic knee problems, announced he will be attempting a comeback.

    Rumors about Roy's possible return have been swirling for months, but he made it official through former college teammate Wil Conroy's twitter account.

    "Lord willing, I will play again soon," Roy wrote in a series of tweets. "Yes, I'm preparing for a comeback. I'm training daily. I'm preparing for a return next year. I appreciate the love. Hopefully I'll be back on the floor soon.

    Health is good."

    If Roy does return to the court next season, it won't be with the Blazers, the team that drafted him.

    "I wish but do to the NBA rules, I cannot play in Portland until 2014 2015.. I'm lookin to return sooner," he tweeted.

    If Roy cares about rings more than money, there are a number of contending teams, such as the Lakers, Heat and Bulls who could use his services.

  • Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond said the team plans on beginning discussions with Brandon Jennings on a contract extension on July 1.

    "Once that date comes around, we'll start discussions," Hammond said. "Until then, we're not allowed to, and that's the reason we haven't.

    "I think we all understand the importance of Brandon, who he is to our organization and what he has done for us."

    I wouldn't go overboard with an offer of let's say seven figures to a point guard who hasn't shown a great deal of playmaking skills, doesn't get to the line very much (career 3.6 attempts per game), and has shot just 39.3 percent from the field.

    Copyright 2012

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