How is it possible that a team can win a crucial NBA Finals game by shooting 5-for-31 outside the paint?
Well, that’s what the Miami Heat just did.
Their 16.1 percent shooting outside the paint is the worst by an NBA Finals team in the last 15 years.
They shot just 1-of-8 outside the paint in the third quarter and 1-of-7 outside the paint in the fourth quarter.
With their cold shooting, how were the Heat able to still win the game?
The Heat pounded the ball into the paint and attacked the basket. They shot 23-of-43 in the paint for 46 points, and they made 31-of-35 at the free throw line.
Heat Shooting in Game 3
Miami attacked the basket early, going 10-of-12 from inside five feet in the first quarter, just two fewer makes than the Thunder had all game (12-of-26) from that same distance. The Heat made only five shots from inside five feet in the second half, with four coming in the fourth quarter.
The Heat shot 17.7 percent (6-of-34) from 10 feet and beyond in Game 3 against the Thunder. That’s the worst field goal percentage from such distances for the Heat in a game since LeBron and Bosh joined the team. The Heat’s previous low was 24.0 percent (12-of-50), done in a Game 5 loss to the Celtics this postseason.
The Heat are proving that it’s possible to win in the NBA Finals without shooting the ball well.
Then again, the Heat also proved they could shoot the ball from the outside in Games 1 and 2. They shot 8-of-19 beyond the arc in Game 1 and 6-of-14 in Game 2.
But it wasn’t just about the Heat’s aggressive offensive that won them the game. It was also LeBron’s defense that keyed the Heat down the stretch to a Game 3 victory.
After Kevin Durant torched the Heat for a combined 33 fourth-quarter points in Games 1 and 2, the first player ever with at least 14 fourth-quarter points in consecutive NBA Finals games, the Heat made an adjustment.
LeBron was the primary defender on Durant in Game 3 after Shane Battier filled the role the first two games. James struggled to contain Durant in the first three quarters, but held him to 1-of-5 shooting in the fourth.
Battier guarded Durant on just one shot attempt (0-1) in Game 3. In the first two games of the series, Battier guarded Durant on 17 field goal attempts, the most by any Heat defender. However, Durant was 11-of-17 against Battier, scoring 30 points (including free throws).
So it seems as though the Heat made a wise adjustment in Game 3.
Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.