The Miami Heat players wanted to prove they’re better than the Oklahoma City Thunder. LeBron James was in the same mindset, focusing on Kevin Durant. Russell Westbrook made his return, but it didn’t really help as the NBA champions went on to dominate from top to bottom in a 103-81 win.
Too bad the most memorable image from this game is LeBron James leaving with a bleeding nose with five minutes left in the game. The Heat were already up by 16 at that point, and his departure didn’t change anything. Their defense did an excellent job of making the most off turnovers and forcing the Thunder into tough, bad shots, while Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh completed a great night for the big three, as they matches the entire offensive production for the Thunder.
James was on fire, scoring the first 12 points for the Heat, finishing with 33 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals while making 15-of-22. He was only 1-of-5 from beyond the arc, but anything closer to the basket was guaranteed, getting a lot of open looks at the rim through fast breaks and forcing his way to the rim. It was on a similar play that Ibaka’s hand hit James on the face, resulting in a bloody court and face, with James leaving the game.
I’m like everybody else, you’re used to seeing him like Superman, get up and sprint back even after tough hits and tough falls. So we knew something was up. He has a swollen nose right now. It’s bleeding. We’ll evaluate him when we get back to Miami, but it’s sore. He was aggressive defensively, he was able to play passing lanes and be who he is. That was a great start on the road by our leader. It was something that we needed.
The Heat scored 50 points in the paint, 18 on the fast break and 27 points off the Thunder’s 20 turnovers. The Thunder did force 18 turnovers on the Heat as well, but they couldn’t get anything done in the half court game. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh each had 24 points, while Wade also added 7 rebounds and 10 assists, showing the kind of performance the Heat want to see from him come playoff time, hoping he’s healthy enough to deliver.
The Thunder did get 28 points from Kevin Durant but he was 1-of-6 from beyond the arc. He found it very difficult against Shane Battier, forcing him to only 1-of-9 from the field for only three points while guarding him. Durant will get his points, but with Battier guarding him, it makes it easier for LeBron James to help out on others, something the Thunder will need to think about if the two teams meet in the NBA finals. On the other end, it didn’t really matter who was on James. Durant couldn’t keep up with him, and Miami kept going for switches as well, leaving Russell Westbrook on James, leading to him scoring 11-of-11 from the paint.
Scott Brooks preferred to talk about how it was the 3-ball that decided the outcome, but the Thunder were sloppy and less than smart on offense, something that is usually a criticism pointed at their head coach. Their defense worked in the second quarter, but that was the only thing worth mentioning from the Western conference leaders, who once again looked clueless against the NBA champions, surprising considering how well they played against them in Miami.
James might need a game off to shake off the hit to his nose, but this was the kind of game that brings back the confidence and fear factor. Rudy T said something about never underestimating the heart of a champion. This was about skill, quality and basketball brains as well as heart, and right now the Heat are showing to everyone that despite slightly trailing the Indiana Pacers in the East, they still might be the team to beat in this league, not to mention having the best player.