For the second game in a row, the NBA's scoring champion found himself in foul trouble.
Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star forward Kevin Durant picked up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter of Game 3 of the 2012 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Sunday night. The foul sent him to the bench with 5:41 remaining in the third quarter with the Thunder leading 60-53.
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"I'm just trying to play aggressive on both ends, and unfortunately I'm getting some fouls called on me, but I've got to play through it." Durant said. "Two games in a row, man, so I've just got to play smarter next game, and hopefully I don't get no fouls called."
Durant played for a long stretch of the second half of a Game 2 loss in Oklahoma City on Thursday night with five fouls. Holding a lead in the third quarter, Thunder coach Scott Brooks elected to sit him rather than risk a fifth foul with nearly a quarter and a half left in the game.
"That's coach's call," Durant said. "I had four, I think, I want to say four or five minutes to go in the third, and we had a nice little rhythm going. I had a nice rhythm going on the offensive end, and for it to just stop like that by me going out of the game because of fouls is kind of tough."
As he sat, the Heat went on a 16-7 to close the third quarter and Durant returned with Miami leading 69-67. The Heat went on to win Game 3 91-85.
"Foul trouble is part of the game," Brooks said. "There's a lot of guys you just have to play. You have to play the game the right way, and you're going to get some fouls called against you. Unfortunately he had two games in a row where he had some foul trouble. But Kevin is an aggressive player. I'd like to see him keep attacking, and hopefully he can get to the free throw line himself. He only had four free throws tonight."
"It was frustrating," Durant said, of watching Miami's run from the sideline. "Of course we had a good lead and they came back and made some shots. We fouled shooters on the three point line twice. It's a tough break for us, man. You know, I hate sitting on the bench, especially with fouls. Just got to do a better job next game of staying out of foul trouble."
In Game 2, Durant appeared to be fouled by Heat All-Star forward LeBron James on a late shot attempt, only to have no foul called. During his post-game comments after Game 2, Durant refused to make an issue of it, saying only that he missed the shot. Again after Game 3, Durant would not bite when asked for his thoughts on the referees.
"I try not to concern myself with the officiating," he said. "They're going to make their calls, and there's nothing we can do about it. We can't change it. Just got to play through it. There's going to be some calls they may miss. They're human. There's going to be some calls that they get right. Just got to play through it."
Durant finished with 25 points, 6 rebounds and 5 turnovers on 11-for-19 shooting in 39 minutes. He had just four points in the fourth quarter after strong play in the final period during both Game 1 and Game 2.
The Heat now hold a 2-1 series advantage over the Thunder. Game 4 is set for Tuesday night in Miami.
Here's a foul-by-foul breakdown of Durant's four fouls, which can be viewed in the video above.
Foul 1: Durant's first call came with 4:05 remaining in the first quarter and the Heat leading 14-12. Working to create space just outside the free throw line, Durant used his right shoulder to clear out Heat guard Dwyane Wade and was whistled for the offensive foul.
Foul 2: Durant's second call came while he tried to play transition defense with 50 seconds remaining before halftime and the game tied at 41. Heat forward LeBron James flew to the basket at full speed and used a Eurostep move to fake Durant to his left. As James pulled the ball back towards Durant's right, he gathered and flipped up a running lay-up, which he made. Replays showed Durant's right hand make light contact with the ball or James' hand on the ball as he swiped while James went by.
Foul 3: The third foul came as Durant worked to play off-ball defense on LeBron James with 10:42 remaining in the third quarter and the Heat leading 49-48. Durant attempted to fight over a pick set by Heat forward Chris Bosh and appeared to use his right arm to impede James' movement as he attempted to cut free.
Foul 4: Durant's fourth foul came at the 5:41 mark of the third quarter as he defended Heat guard Dwyane Wade in a one-on-one situation. Wade attempted to drive baseline and Durant shadowed him. Durant went up in the air as Wade pump-faked and then he attempted ot block Wade's shot a second time, although there didn't seem to be much, if any, contact either time he left the ground.