Nine days after entering as the Las Vegas oddsmakers’ favorite to win the NBA Finals, Oklahoma City stands on the brink of elimination — a predicament resulting largely from defensive breakdowns, late-game issues and lack of support around the Thunder’s two stars.
“It’s tough, especially to lose the way we did the last three games,” said Kevin Durant, who’s averaging 30.3 points in the series. “I’m not going to give up. I’ve been down 0-2 against San Antonio, and everybody said it was over then and we won.”
Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for the Thunder’s final 32 points in Game 4, with the other players shooting 0 for 7 over the final 16 minutes. James Harden, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, has shot just 13 for 47 in the series (35.1 percent).
“I’m getting very good shots,” Harden said. “They’re just not falling. A couple of my threes rattled in and out.”
Center Kendrick Perkins said Thunder forward Serge Ibaka told Harden: “We need you to be aggressive and in attack mode.” Ibaka told his teammates Wednesday “that we need to stick together and believe we can do it.”
Perkins, who played just 17 minutes in Game 4 because coach Scott Brooks opted for a smaller lineup, insisted he did not intend to criticize Brooks when he said afterward: “I just don’t understand why we start out the first quarter the way we did [with a 17-point lead], with the lineup that we had, and all of a sudden we change and adjust to what they had going on. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The Thunder lost three games in a row once during the regular season but did not lose four in a row all year. Oklahoma City has gone an NBA-high 276 consecutive games without losing four straight. Teams ahead 3-1 in the NBA Finals have won all 30 of those series.
Westbrook, who scored 43 points in Game 4 and is averaging 29 in the series, admitted he made a mental error in fouling Mario Chalmers with 13 seconds left but just four seconds on the shot clock. “There was 0.4 seconds on the shot clock, and I forgot that you get five seconds once the jump ball occurred again,” he said.
Several Heat players said coach Erik Spoelstra reminded them of that rule before the jump ball.
• Ibaka said his comment that LeBron James “is not a good defender” was misinterpreted. Ibaka, who struggles somewhat with English, said the reporter “asked me, ‘LeBron is doing a great job stopping Kevin, yeah?’ ” and Ibaka attempted to say that it was the Heat doing a great job as a team, not James specifically.
• Chalmers, who scored 12 points in the fourth quarter of Game 4, admitted he told Wade during a timeout, “If you get trapped, find me and I’ll put the dagger in them.”
Chalmers noted that when he would say something like that in the past, teammates would shrug it off.
“But I’ve proven myself over the last four years,” he said, “and my teammates have a lot of trust in me.”
Said Wade: “Mario probably thinks he’s the best player on this team. He really thinks that.”
• Perkins said James “is more focused than I’ve ever seen him. And he has more help” than past years.
• James (26 points), Wade (25) and Chalmers (25) became the first trio of teammates to score 25 or more in a Finals game since the Lakers’ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and Magic Johnson did it in 1985 against the Celtics.