Thunder can't continue to play from behind

June, 19, 2012
6/19/12
1:56
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
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Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesIt's LeBron James (left), and not Kevin Durant, who has been "clutch" in the NBA Finals.
(The Miami Heat host the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Tuesday at 9 ET on ABC/ESPN3.)


Since the NBA Finals went to a 2-3-2 format in 1985, teams are 0-13 in series when trailing 3-1. (In NBA history, teams are 0-30 when falling behind 3-1 in the Finals.) If history is any indication, then the Oklahoma City Thunder must win Game 4. A loss at Miami would put the Thunder in a 3-1 hole. Seven teams have forced a Game 6 after being behind 3-1, but all seven teams lost Game 6.

The Thunder have won all three of their Game 4s this postseason -- including road wins against the Mavericks and Lakers.

Oklahoma City has been playing from behind in the first three games. The Heat have led after the first quarter in all three games, and outscored the Thunder in the first quarters, 82-57.

One reason the Thunder have found themselves in early holes is the fact that they are not shooting as well from the outside.

Against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, the Thunder shot almost 45 percent on field goal attempts that were at least 15 feet from the basket good for 41 points per game. In the NBA Finals, those numbers are down considerably (see chart).

Entering the Finals, Kevin Durant was one of the most “clutch” players this postseason. (Clutch is defined as the final five minutes of the fourth quarter/overtime with the score within five points.) Durant was 12-for-20 from the floor (60 percent) in those tight situations, the second-best field goal percentage behind Paul Pierce this postseason.

However, that production has eluded Durant in the Finals, shooting just 16.7 percent (1-6) in those situations, including two late misses in Game 3.

While Durant has not been “clutch,” LeBron James has been in the NBA Finals. James has made 3-of-5 shots in clutch situations, and made 5-of-6 free throws. (Durant has yet to get to the line in “clutch” situations.)

History has proven that if the Heat win Game 4, then they will go on to win their second title in the last six years. However, Miami as a franchise has struggled to close out series when leading two games to one.

In the history of the NBA playoffs, teams with a 2-1 lead in a best-of-seven series have gone on to win the series 82 percent of the time. The Heat have won seven of the 11 best-of-seven series they have played in which they held a 2-1 lead.

That may sound impressive, but the Elias Sports Bureau confirms that 63.6 percent success rate is the lowest for any franchise among teams that have played three or more such series. (Since Dwyane Wade was drafted in 2003, the Heat are 7-3 in those series.)

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