In basketball, the little things, such as offensive rebounds and free throws can make a huge difference in a game.
The Miami Heat did a better job in both of those categories Sunday night, collecting 14 offensive rebounds, and making 16 more free throws than the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Heat used those advantages to propel them to a 91-85 victory over the Thunder, and take a 2-1 series lead.
The Finals continues on Tuesday with Game Four in Miami set for an 8 p.m. CST tip time.
Lebron James led all scorers with 29 points, and hauled down 14 rebounds as well. Dwyane Wade added 25 points for the Heat.
Kevin Durant scored 25 points to lead the Thunder, and Russell Westbrook chipped in 19.
The telling stat of the night was at the free throw line, where the Thunder hit just 15-24 freebies. Meanwhile, the Heat hit 31-35, a huge discrepancy that spelled doom for OKC.
It was an uncharacteristically poor performance from the free throw line for the Thunder, who led the league in free throw percentage this season at well over 80 percent. The low number of attempts was also surprising, since the Thunder also led the league in attempts.
The Thunder came out with a bit more intensity than Game Two, but Miami got out to a quick 10-4 lead, thanks to several layups and dunks. OKC battled back, but Miami consistently out-hustled the Thunder getting to loose balls and long rebounds. James had 10 points and five rebounds in the first quarter alone as Miami took a 26-20 lead.
The combination of James, Wade, and Bosh scored 20 of Miami's 26 points in the quarter.
OKC got the offense flowing a bit more in the second quarter, ending up with 50 percent shooting for the first half, and went into halftime trailing by just one, 47-46. The Thunder would have been ahead if not for being outrebounded by nine. Miami dominated the offensive glass as well, getting 10 offensive boards, compared to just four for the Thunder.
Miami had staked itself to a 30-22 lead on two Udonis Haslem free throws, its biggest lead of the game, but the Thunder went on a quick 7-0 spurt to close the gap to 30-29. The lead wouldn't get above four points either way the rest of the half.
OKC went on a 14-4 run to start the second half, with a spectacular Westbrook layup with 7:56 left in the third quarter making it 56-51. On the play, Westbrook drove down the lane, faked a behind the back pass to Thabo Sefolosha, and then laid it in for two.
Two Kevin Durant buckets capped the run, and gave the Thunder a nine-point lead.
However, Durant picked up his fourth foul on an iffy call with 5:41 left in the third quarter, and would sit for the rest of the quarter. That foul proved to be a huge momentum killer for the Thunder, and really changed the outlook of the game.
Three possessions later, Derek Fisher hit a three and was fouled by Mario Chalmers. Fisher hit the free throw to complete the four-point play and give the Thunder a 10 point lead.
Miami wasn't going to quit, especially with Durant and Westbrook on the bench. OKC helped them along the way, fouling back-to-back three-point shooters which Miami converted to six points when they made all six free throws.
James then hit a 3-point shot with 52 seconds left to give Miami the lead at the end of the third quarter, 69-67.
Oklahoma City went just 6-11 in the quarter from the foul line, which helped Miami complete the comeback.
In the fourth quarter, it was a back and forth affair until the Heat went on an 8-0 run to open up a 84-77 lead with 3:44 to play. However, the Thunder responded with a 6-0 run of their own to cut the lead to 86-85 with 1:19 left.
OKC could never finish, as Miami scored the last five points to finish the game.
The Thunder played well enough to win throughout the course of the game, but their failure to execute down the stretch was uncharacteristic, and somewhat troubling.
OKC needs just one win to send the series back to Oklahoma City for a Game Six, so Game Four is as close as you can get to a must win that isn't an elimination game. The Thunder can take a lot of positives from Game Three, on both ends of the court, but there are still things to improve.
Teams that do the little things well often are the ones who often come out on top. OKC will have to be that team in Game Four if they hope to continue this series.