LeBron James and the Miami Heat made a couple statements Thursday night, as they defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-81, to improve to 39-14 on the season.
For the Heat, James finished with 33 points, seven rebounds, and one bloody nose. Dwyane Wade scored 24 points, dished a game-high 10 assists, and grabbed seven rebounds. Chris Bosh contributed 24 points and eight rebounds.
For the Thunder, Kevin Durant finished with a team-high 28 points and eight rebounds. Russell Westbrook scored 16 points in his return to the Thunder lineup. Serge Ibaka pitched in 14 points and eight rebounds.
The Heat came out on a mission like they did in the first game. However, unlike the first game, they didn’t let their foot off the gas. They jumped out to a 34-17 lead after the 1st quarter, and took a seven point lead into halftime. They were able to jump out to a 22-point lead in the 3rd quarter, before the Thunder got it back down to 12 after three quarters. The Heat then used a quick 8-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Shooting 55% from the field was a big key in grabbing the early lead, but much of this win can be contributed to the defense played on Durant.
The Durant suffocated Durant on the Thunder’s patented pick-and-rolls and forced him into some bad shots, which was a drastic change from the first game. Also, the trio of Ibaka, Derek Fisher and Jeremy Lamb didn’t combine to shoot 22-37 like they did in the matchup in Miami. The Heat made their adjustments and looked like the championship team we’re accustomed to seeing.
I said earlier that LeBron also made a statement in this game, and that was certainly the case. He scored the first 12 points of the game for the Heat, and 16 points in the 1st quarter to set the pace. Although he only scored 17 for the remaining three quarters, he had his fingerprints all over this game. Things got a little scary in the 4th quarter however, when he was hit in the face and bloodied on this drive to the basket:
The update is that his nose is fine and he should be good for the next game. More importantly, he made the case that the MVP race is far from over. His intensity since the loss in Utah has been amazing, and his game has picked up along the way. Can he find a way to catch Durant? That remains to be seen, but he’s off to a good start.
The Heat’s next game is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, as the Chicago Bulls (28-25) come to town. The tip-off is scheduled for 3:30 pm.