Ignore the fact that Kevin Durant scored one point more than LeBron James. He wasn’t even close to the level needed to outshine LeBron James, going through an unstoppable stretch, for once not troubled by the fact that the Miami Heat traveled to play away from home, against the the team with the best record in the NBA.
For the sixth straight time, the Miami Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, going back to last season’s NBA Finals series. We can talk all we want about the players around the two superstars, but the matter of fact is that James took this game by the teeth from the first second he stepped on the floor, while Kevin Durant needed the game to go into long, long, garbage time to start finding ways to make points. He scored 40 points, but still, that was one of the weakest 40-point performances you’ll see, while LeBron James, as usual, filled up the stat sheet with 39 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists.
The Heat came out of Oklahoma City with a 110-100 lead that doesn’t do justice to how dominant they were for most of the game, leading by 20 points for long stretches of the game. The same thing that worked so well in the finals, playing “small-ball” and using Chris Bosh to offset the usual dynamic in the Thunder’s defense came along with fantastic defense on their own, forcing 16 turnovers and scoring too many easy points while the Thunder seemed to be working too hard to get any of theirs.
I thought we imposed our will, playing our style of basketball. But have their number? No, we’re not feeling that way. We’ve just won two games against them. That’s it.
Dwyane Wade had a quiet shooting night with 13 points, but he did 8 assists and 3 more steals, enjoying the great defense by his teammates to make use of his long arms and excellent timing to strip away balls from the Thunder time after time. Russell Westbrook was the only pistol firing for the Thunder in the first half, scoring 20 points, but Kevin Durant was only 2-10, simply overwhelmed by what the Heat brought on him and possibly the intensity of the opening minutes, leading him to quite a few moments of frustration and yet another technical foul.
Maybe it was seeing just how far he is from LeBron James at the moment – Durant had impressive numbers in the Finals last year, but whenever he was needed to grab the games by the neck and make the necessary plays, he, like his team, folded. This time, against a Miami Heat team probably playing their best basketball of the season, they folded from the start.
As for James’ dominance? He’s averaging 30.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.2 assists in the last six games against the Thunder, winning all six of them. He leads the league with six games this season with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds. His 60% shooting streak ended, making “only” 58.3% of his shots. In a game that wasn’t just some sort of deceleration regarding the power rankings and the NBA finals but also about who is the deserving MVP this season, the Miami Heat and LeBron James won in a knockout.