By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — As the NBA heads into its midseason All-Star break Friday, the 2012-13 season has been about two teams and two players.
With all due respect to the resurgent Knicks, the crafty Spurs, the train wreck Lakers or the Lob City Clippers, the Heat and the Thunder seem to be on a collision course for a rematch in the NBA Finals.
Miami travels to Oklahoma tonight for the teams’ second encounter of the year. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The contest will feature the top two players in the NBA. The gap to whomever is No. 3 is a chasm. LeBron James and Kevin Durant have proven they are in a class by themselves this season with their overall play and have propelled their teams’ to the second and third best records in the league.
It’s a historic run. That is what NBA analysts across the country are calling the recent play of Miami’s LeBron James.
For six straight games, the reigning NBA MVP has scored at least 30 points and shot better than 60 percent from the field. Over that span Miami is 6-0 and reclaimed its unbeatable status.
James’ recent play has brought out about the possibility of the Heat (35-14) having a cakewalk to a second straight NBA championship.
But Durant is having just as impressive a season, even though he’s not getting the same amount of coverage as James. The 3-time scoring champ is on pace to not only win a fourth scoring title, but also join the 50-40-90 club. To make it into this elite club, a player has to shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent at the free throw line. Only Larry Bird (2), Dirk Nowitzki, Reggie Miller, Mark price and Steve Nash have ever accomplished it before. Only Bird had a higher scoring average than Durant’s current pace of 29.1.
Yet, as Durant has said continually, this year is all about Oklahoma City (39-13) winning the NBA title. And that may mean confronting the Heat once again.
In last year’s NBA Finals, after Oklahoma City won the opening salvo, Miami battered, bruised and beat up the Thunder for the next four games on its way to winning the championship.
In the team’s first encounter this year, once again, it was the Heat who came away the winner and have now won five straight against the Thunder.
That is what makes today’s contest so crucial. While Oklahoma City has seemingly proven to be mentally tough enough to win an NBA title, it needs to erase any seed of doubt that it can’t beat Miami if the two were to meet in the finals.
The Heat enter the matchup winners of six straight and it’s been more than James. Dwayne Wade is back to the form that once had him being consideration for the best player in the NBA. When healthy, Chris Bosh has also played at an all-star level.
The Thunder are coming off an ugly loss to Utah on Tuesday and will enter tonight’s game angry and upset. That may be the exact attitude they will need to overtake their nemesis from South Beach.
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