MIAMI - The Oklahoma City Thunder were the best free-throw shooting team in the NBA this season but the Western Conference champions lost Game Three of the championship series due to their frailties at the line against the Miami Heat on Sunday.
The Thunder missed nine-of-24 free throws, while the aggressive Heat, led by rugged LeBron James, attacked the rim relentlessly and were rewarded with 35 free throws that they turned into 31 points in a 91-85 victory for a 2-1 series lead.
"We're missing," Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant told reporters. "We've just got to be focused and disciplined and knock them down."
Durant led the Thunder with 25 points, but only took four free throws, making half of them.
"Last game, we missed seven and lost by four (points)," lamented three-time NBA scoring champion Durant. "Tonight, we missed nine, lost by six. Just got to be disciplined."
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said his team needed a change of attitude if they are to regain momentum in the best-of-seven series.
"We fouled too many times. They got to the free throw line 35 times, we got to the free throw line 24 times," Brooks recounted.
"We've got to do a better job defending them without fouling. Kevin had five fouls on him, only four free throws. He has to be able to get to the free-throw line. That's when we're at our best."
Given the wide disparity from the charity stripe, the Thunder thought they had played well enough in other facets to beat the Heat.
"We put ourselves in a position to win. That's what it's about," said Durant, who led Oklahoma City with 25 points.
Russell Westbrook, who scored 19 points, tried to stay positive.
"You know, it was a good game," he said. "We kept them down on shooting, 37 percent. We just weren't able to close it out. But we'll do a better job next time."
Thabo Sefolosha a defensive specialist who helped harass the Heat into eight fourth-quarter turnovers, said the Thunder had to be more aggressive on offense.
"I think we should have attacked the basket a little more and get to the free throw line," the Swiss said. "We should have been more in an attack mode."
Congolese center Serge Ibaka said that on balance he was pleased with the way the team played.
"I'm kind of happy. Tonight we played better. If we keep playing like tonight, I think we can do something for the next couple of games."
Durant vowed a better effort for Tuesday's Game Four in Miami.
"Tough loss. This is not over," he said. "We've got to be ready for the next game." (Editing by John O'Brien)