By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — It had all the makings of a classic confrontation. Miami and Oklahoma City, the finalist in last year’s NBA Championship, were meeting on Valentine’s Day before the All-Star break. It was a dream matchup.
For three quarters, it was anything but as the Heat looked like they were going to cruise to a win. However, the Thunder battled back in the fourth quarter to make a game of it. It just wasn’t enough, though, as the Heat won 110-100 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Miami swept the season series and has now won six straight games against the Thunder, dating to the NBA Finals.
“Not disappointed,” Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook said. “But mostly surprised. I knew we would come out ready to play.”
But the Thunder didn’t. It wasn’t until after being dominated for three quarters that they struck back in the fourth behind Kevin Durant. He found his shooting stroke and helped Oklahoma City close to 11 with 4:00 remaining. It began to look like the game fans had expected.
However, each time Oklahoma City got close, LeBron James had an answer, including making six straight points to close the game. He showed why he’s the standard level Durant is still trying to reach.
“He’s a great player,” Durant said of James. “He’s done it all. He’s got an MVP, got a championship, I played with him on the gold-medal team. He’s playing great. Once you gain confidence, once you’re feeling good, those shots he was making tonight come from the last week he’s had. You can’t do nothing about it. You have to sit and take it.”
James led the charge for Miami (36-15) with 39 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. But his streak of consecutive 30-point games and shooting 60 percent from the field ended at six. James missed his final shot from 3-point range to finish 14 of 24 from the floor for 58 percent.
Chris Bosh added 20 points and 12 rebounds. Dwayne Wade was held to 13 points before fouling out.
Durant paced Oklahoma City (39-14) with 40 points on 12-for-24 shooting from the field. Russell Westbrook added 26 points and 10 assists. However, the Thunder got only 14 points, seven rebounds and zero assists from its bench.
“What I can see tonight is a team, kind of like last year, this team is never going to die,” Wade said of the Thunder. “They have so many weapons, they are going to keep coming at you. This is a good team, no matter if they are having an off night. They always end the ball game, so that makes them dangerous.”
The Heat were on their game early. They had the Thunder running in circles as they tried to keep up with their crisp passing. Miami jumped out to a 28-13 lead.
On consecutive plays, Durant was called for a technical foul, then was undercut going for a rebound and landed awkwardly. After laying on ground for a couple of minutes, he got up and stayed in the game.
The Heat led 32-17 going into the second quarter.
It was the Heat’s defense that helped Miami separate itself from The Thunder. No matter what Oklahoma City tried to do, Miami had an answer. Durant didn’t make his first field goal of the game until 4:21 left in the second quarter when he hit a 3-pointer falling out of bounds.
Miami stretched its lead to 23 points at one point. It wasn’t the type of game Durant had hoped to see from himself or his team.
“Maybe it was nerves or too excited,” Durant said. “That was the game I think. I was missing some shots in the lane. Missing some layups. But the thing about me, I keep coming at it. I keep coming back. Believing in myself, trusting in my work and I was able to make a few (in) the second half. We were playing for pride. We kept fighting. We made it a game.”
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