For the first six minutes of this game, it felt like 2012 all over again — Miami’s defense was smothering, Miami’s offense was finding space and knocking down shots. Meanwhile the red-hot Kevin Durant could not fine room to make his play.
For six minutes the Heat looked like the two-time defending champs and the Thunder looked a couple steps behind them.
Then everything turned.
It started when Jeremy Lamb and Derek Fisher came in and started knocking down threes. Kept going as Scott Brooks sent Kendrick Perkins to the bench and went with a smaller, more mobile lineup — then broke form and kept it for the second half, with Perry Jones starting in place of Perkins (and not shockingly, it worked, I don’t understand why Brooks is so stubborn sticking with Perk). It started when the Thunder started sharing the ball like a contender — two passes after the Heat’s defensive trap to get an open look.
It ended with a 112-95 Oklahoma City rout of the Heat.
If you had any questions about if the Thunder were really title contenders this season, here was your answer.
Kevin Durant finished with 33 points, making it a dozen games in a row over the 30 point mark. The league record is 16 by Tracy McGrady and Durant could well catch him.
However, what really matters is he was efficient racking up those points — 12-of-23 shooting overall and 4-of-9 from three, plus he had seven assists and five rebounds.
LeBron James had 34 points on 20 shots, the rest of his game was bottled up and he had three rebounds and three assists.
What’s more is Miami turned the ball over on 22.7 percent of its possessions Wednesday night — more than 1-in-5 times down the court they coughed it up without a shot. Those became fast break points going the other way for OKC — 11 of those fast break points in the second quarter when the Thunder turned the game around. After his cold start Durant got his rhythm converting those turnovers into easy transition buckets, and once he got his rhythm he was knocking down threes from Epcot Center.
Miami wants to play fast but as part of that they want to attack the rim and the heat stopped that and settled for jumpers much of night. Often ones early in then shot clock. Which went poorly. After starting 2-of-3 from deep the Heat missed their next 15 three pointers. Yet they kept settling, they kept firing away.
Meanwhile Oklahoma was 10-of-16 from three at one point in the third quarter and finished the game 16-of-27 from deep. The Thunder’s fantastic ball movement exploited the Heat traps, on Durant and everyone above the three-point line, by making two and three passes after the trap to find the open man. Then they hit the shot.
Serge Ibaka finished with 22 points, Jeremy Lamb 18 and Derek Fisher 15 as he turned back the hands of time and was 5-of-5 from three.
Chris Bosh had 18 points and 9 rebounds, playing a solid game. Dwyane Wade had 15 points and looked just a step slow.
That’s nine wins in a row for the Thunder, who still get to add to Russell Westbrook to the mix. That was Kevin Durant grabbing ahold of the MVP race.
As much as can happen in a January game (which isn’t much), that was the Thunder making a statement.