A team that seemingly assembled the ideally constructed roster ultimately did not have enough.
Not enough defense. Not enough help from its ensemble. And not enough to derail the steamrolling Heat in these NBA Finals.
And so a glorious Oklahoma City season ended with a thud Thursday, the Thunder losing four games into a row for the first time in 276 games, which had been the NBA’s longest active streak.
Any chance of a Thunder comeback ended with a 19-1 third-quarter eruption that expanded the Heat’s lead from seven to 25.
“They beat us fair and square,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “They were just on fire. They had everything going. They are a heck of a team. They were the better team in this series. I told our team they gave all they got. It wasn’t enough.”
A game after scoring 43 points, Russell Westbrook cascaded back to Earth, missing 16 of 20 shots and finishing with 19 points, six assists and two turnovers.
A snapshot of Westbrook’s frustrating night: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade blocked two of his driving layups attempts, seemingly out of nowhere, within a two-minute stretch in the third quarter.
Kevin Durant (32 points, 13 for 24 shooting) did his part, but the Thunder didn’t get nearly enough from the supporting case.
Serge Ibaka (3 for 9) and Kendrick Perkins (1 for 4) combined to shoot 4 for 13, with four rebounds apiece. Thabo Sefolosha, charged with slowing James, picked up his second foul less than six minutes into the game and went scoreless for the game, missing both his shots. Though James Harden came alive with 19 points, he shot 18 for 48 over the five games.
Defensively, Oklahoma City was a step slow and sometimes appeared confused, with players arguing among themselves about assignments. Ibaka threw up his hands in exasperation after the Thunder lost track of Chris Bosh on a dunk early in the third quarter.
“They were challenging every dribble, every pass, every shot,” Brooks said. “They played an intimidating brand of basketball.”
The Heat shot 51.9 percent; consider that the Thunder had been limiting opponents to 43.7 percent and 96 points, on average, in the playoffs before Thursday.
Double-teaming James — and, at times, Wade — resulted in open shots for others, and the Heat often hit them, finishing 14 for 26 from three, including seven threes from Mike Miller.
Offensively, the Thunder shot 41.4 percent and its ball movement was often deficient. And as the Heat’s third quarter stampede continued, the Thunder became increasingly desperate and started hoisting quick jumpers. And “when you don’t make shots against them, they are explosive in transition,” Brooks said.
What’s more, Oklahoma City lacked touch around the rim. On shots inside the paint, the Thunder opened 4 for 12 and closed 20 for 41.
“Miami had ups and downs this season,” Harden said, “but in this series, they brought it.”