Thunder near the brink after loss in Game 4
By Tim Reynolds ,AP
June 21, 2012, 12:39 am TWN
MIAMI -- Oklahoma City Thunder got an epic performance from Russell Westbrook. They ran out to a huge early lead. They watched LeBron James get carried off the court in the fourth quarter, and took the lead shortly after he departed.
Somehow, it still wasn't enough as they lost Game 4 of the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat on Tuesday, slipping to a 3-1 series deficit and needing to win the next three in a row to take the title.
Even after getting 43 points from Westbrook, 28 more from Kevin Durant and staking itself to a 17-point lead by the time the first quarter was over, Oklahoma City lost 104-98 and is now officially on the brink.
"I can guarantee this," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We have fight in us."
Game 5 is in Miami on Thursday, where the Heat can capture the NBA title that they were assembled to get two years ago.
History says the Thunder are now in deep, deep trouble. No team in NBA history has rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals. No team has even forced a Game 7 when faced with that scenario.
Westbrook took 32 shots, as many as James and Chris Bosh tried combined. He made 20 — half of Oklahoma City's field goals on the night — and finished with seven rebounds and five assists as well. For a guard who struggled so much so many times against Miami, it was a breakout night that the Thunder desperately needed.
"Russell was terrific tonight," Brooks said. "The guy played relentless. He was aggressive. He kept us in this game and he gave us a chance to win."
Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: "He was tremendous tonight."
What they also needed was to take advantage of that tremendous night — and that didn't happen, largely because Miami made sure Oklahoma City only had two options by night's end.
"It's not me against the world, it's not the world against me," Westbrook said, when asked if his night silenced critics. "It's me and my teammates trying to win."