Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder sent a message to the Miami Heat and the rest of the NBA tonight beating the heat 103-87 in Chesapeake Arena.
Durant completely outplayed LeBron James and heard the crowd chanting “MVP, MVP” as he was shooting free throws in the final minutes of the game. Durant put up a James-like stat-line tonight with 28 points, nine rebounds and eight rebounds.
James had just 17 points and seven assists, was visibly passive with Durant guarding him and attempted just one free throw in the game.
The Thunder would get 35 points and 16 rebounds out of Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka tonight as the two combined to go 16-for-21 from the field. Perkins – who said this game meant more than the usual regular season game before the tip – especially helped set the tone finishing off strong dunks all night including this one where he got tangled up with Wade on the follow through.
With Russell Westbrook in foul trouble in the first half it would be James Harden who stepped up for the Thunder and helped them start pulling away. Harden scored 14 of his 19 points in the first half and also added six assists in the game. He actually had one of his bigger struggled of the season dealing with Miami’s Shane Battier and turned the ball over seven times.
The headline will read Durant and LeBron when looking at this game. James seemed to revert back to a similar mode that he was in during the NBA Finals last year with the announcers mentioning how he needed to be more aggressive. Credit the Thunder defense and Durant in particular for the attention they paid him all night.
Miami relies a lot on spot-up shooting and didn’t kill the Thunder in that department tonight making just 7-of-22 threes in the game. Wade and James who have been taking far fewer threes this season attempted seven in the game with Wade being the only one to make any converting three including a 68-footer.
The Thunder would also have less turnovers than Miami on the night with 16 compared to 21. The Heat have one of the best defenses in the league but Oklahoma City was up to the challenge tonight and took care of the ball for the most part and had some of their best ball movement of the season with 26 assists as a team.
Westbrook would have a tough night for the Thunder and was unable to find any rhythm after getting into foul trouble in the first half. He was 4-for-16 in the game and Wade noticeably seemed to have his number whenever they matched up.
The Thunder simply outplayed Miami tonight and also “out-efforted” them. This is the kind of team the Thunder are never taking nights off while Miami is known for it. You would have expected in this game for both teams to bring their best stuff but it was simply not the case.
The teams will meet again once more this season on April 4 in Miami. The Thunder (37-12) will play next at Portland (22-26) on Tuesday.