Sometimes he doesn’t need it, but LeBron James needed some help tonight.
He didn’t get it.
After leading 22-4, the Miami Heat were outscored 108-73 in what turned into a route by the Oklahoma City Thunder at AmericanAirlines Arena.
With 34 points, LeBron James did outscore Kevin Durant (who had 33) but that was about it for the Heat. Bosh showed up early but disappeared as the game went on, scoring 11 of his 18 points in the first quarter.
What did the Heat in, however, was their dismal… and I mean dismal… three-point shooting train wreck. Miami went 3-for-19 from three (15.8 percent) compared to the Thunder’s 16-27 (59.3 percent).
The Heat’s defensive struggles once again reared it’s ugly head. Dwyane Wade said after the game that the team tried some new things in regards to their defensive rotations.
Wade says they tried some new things defensively: "And whatever we tried, we have to scrap. It didn't work."
— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) January 30, 2014
While James and Durant pretty much played to a stalemate, the Thunder simply got more from the rest of their bunch than the Heat, including 22 points from Serge Ibaka, 18 from Jeremy Lamb and 15 from Derek Fisher. (You know the defense needs work when Fisher scores in double digits).
Comparatively, James got just four points from Chalmers and Cole didn’t score in 23 minutes of action. Wade scored a modest 15 points and Battier and Ray Allen hit just one three apiece all game.
Wade gets a little leeway tonight, since it was his first game back in the starting lineup. He was also used a lot in pick-and-rolls and other ball movement to help set up Bosh, who has emerged as the team’s second scoring option as of late.
Wade reminded me that he draws two defenders on pick and rolls for Bosh, “so I’m the set-up guy.”
— Joseph Goodman (@JoeGoodmanJr) January 30, 2014
It’s clear that the Thunder, with years of good drafts that have results in developing-young players, are deeper than Miami this season. What’s more: Unlike their meeting in the 2012 Finals, OKC went small. That created much better match ups for them.
When Russell Westbrook returns, the Thunder will probably be the Vegas favorite in the Western Conference. Ibaka has developed into one of the best mid-range shooters in the NBA, Durant is killing it and the team is deep and has Finals experience.
An aging Heat team’s worst nightmare may be a young, athletic team that can run them out of the building. I don’t doubt that the Heat can kick it into that extra gear in the conference and NBA finals, but should they meet the Slim Reaper in the final round, it could pose some problems.