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Thunder roll on Miami as Heat roll over

Mar 26, 2012, 1:36 AM EDT

Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder Getty Images

The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Miami Heat 103-87 Sunday night behind Kevin Durant‘s 29 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. It was an MVP performance by Durant and a statement game for the Thunder. For the Heat, it was yet another in a long series of headache-inducing performances in which the Heat faced the biggest game of their season, a potential Finals preview, and played listless, without energy, and basically uninspired basketball.

The Heat are polarizing, and a huge story, but I don’t want to short OKC, so we’re going to split this. Let’s start with the Thunder.

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We told you in the pre-game things to watch which of the two teams got scoring inside and which of the two teams had turnoverissues. OKC has the worst turnover rate in the league, and tonight was +5 in that category, turning over Miami 21 (!) times. That meant run-outs for James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant. If you give the best offensive team in the league an open court and man advantage, that’s going to work out badly for you. The way they created them was interesting, though. They didn’t overplay the passing lanes. Instead, they waited for entry passes inside, then swarmed whoever the post or pinch man was, attacking their handle and aiming for a jump ball, forcing a desperation kickout and then attacked the passing lane. In doing so they managed to create havoc without gambling out of position on the perimeter.

But the real story of the game was hidden behind Durant’s brilliance. A huge part of stopping OKC is making them a three-headed monster. You can survive Harden, Westbrook, and Durant, and in reality, Durant had a great game, Harden an OK game (19 points but 7 turnovers and some truly terrible defense at times) and Westbrook a poorer than normal game (13 points on 16 shots and 4 turnovers). But Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins combined for 35 points and 16 rebounds and if that happens, you are done, my friend. You can pack it in.

They got those points off of smart passing. Off of mid-range jumpers. Of of supreme effort. At one point, Serge Ibaka dove out of bounds to save the ball, then recovered, grabbed the pass and nailed a 16-footer. That’s an exceptionally difficult play and the kind of focus that OKC had all night. They had the Heat’s number at both ends. They played superb defense, attacking and frustrating the Heat with help defense. It was the kind of performance that OKC needed to provide with the defensive question marks they have as a team and it provided the statement they needed.

Harden in reality didn’t have an “OK” game, he had a simultaneously great and relatively questionable game. Overall you have to give him a solid B for the performance, but the matchup, should the two teams meet in the Finals, would be one to watch. But when you let OKC turn you over, when you let them get that kind of production from their bigs, when you let them beat you to every loose ball and make every hustle play, you’re going to be in trouble.

——————————————————————————–

And that’s what Miami found. Trouble all over.

It was yet another big game in which Miami looked shellshocked. They started out well enough but once OKC started landing haymakers, they faded into the background. Miami had one of those games that reminds you of the Finals, a reminder that there are nights when they simply evaporate from the court and are overrun. There are games when teams don’t have it, that happens in the league all the time. But the fact that it always seems to happen against contenders is a serious problem. Miami no has lackluster efforts against the Lakers, Bulls (without Derrick Rose) and Thunder. The Heat can claim that these losses don’t matter, but that kind of confidence requires championship pedigree. Otherwise how can we be sure they won’t have the same kind of meltdown they had in the Finals? I’m no advocate for the “Count the Rings!” approach, but it’s not totally fine for Miami to keep no-showing opportunities for them to make a statement.

Getting murdered inside is especially worrisome. The common refrain has been that the Heat don’t need improvements in their roster at center, because Joel Anthony is surprisingly good and their athleticism covers the rest. But giving up 35 points to two players who, despite what their coach will tell you, are not legitimate offensive weapons when adequately defended, is not going to get it cut. They wound up against one team with a great center last year in the playoffs.

They lost to that team.

Sunday night can be passed off as just another game all they want. But it wasn’t to OKC and they played like it. Durant played like an MVP, the Thunder role players stepped up, and the Heat literally threw away their chances at the game.

Championship teams get to play the “we’ll be fine, we’ve been fine before.” As usual, Miami’s playing that card without having it.

  1. asublimeday - Mar 26, 2012 at 2:01 AM

    The state of sports in America is always a little better when the Heat lose.

  2. dirtybird2020 - Mar 26, 2012 at 2:15 AM

    Hahaha, soft as heck, i still remember them crying last year in mid season !

  3. david8726 - Mar 26, 2012 at 2:48 AM

    Also, in the interest of fairness, it’s a fallacy to claim that the Heat haven’t been able to play well in “big games” this year.

    So far, they are –

    1-1 against the Lakers
    1-1 against the Bulls
    1-0 against the Spurs
    0-1 against OKC

    3-3 overall. Not amazing, but not terrible either. .500 is about what I’d expect to see VS the other top teams in the league.

    • giantballs - Mar 26, 2012 at 9:09 AM

      They have 3 super stars and the league mvp. Shouldn’t they be doing better than just average? This team is over hyped/rated. I feel like im the only one who thinks its not a sure thing that the heat win or even go to the finals this year.

    • llfreedman - Mar 26, 2012 at 10:33 AM

      3-3 is not what you’d want to see from the “best” team in the nba. Nice try.

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 26, 2012 at 1:47 PM

        You’re right that 3-3 won’t get it done. But 4-3 will.

      • david8726 - Mar 26, 2012 at 3:33 PM

        But here’s the thing – I never said the Heat were clearly the “best” team in the NBA. Nice try.

      • llfreedman - Mar 26, 2012 at 4:52 PM

        @david8726, the overall consensus of the league is the Heat is the best team. And that’s the context of which the article you were critiquing is written. Sure 3-3 is fine for any old team in a vacuum, but we are talking about realistic expectations of the Heat with Lebron, Wade, and Bosh.

        That’s nice that you are happy with 3-3. But most thinking fans realize how talented the Heat are and that they should be better than 500.

      • david8726 - Mar 26, 2012 at 8:39 PM

        Illfreedman,

        I don’t give a crap what the “overall consensus” of other people are. The “masses” are frequently misinformed about a wide variety of subjects. We’re talking about what the Heat actually are – Not what random fans or bad analysts on ESPN think they are.

        I have never believed that the Heat are significantly better than the Thunder or Bulls. Their overall record has NEVER indicated that to be the case. They are an elite team, but they’ve never been head and shoulders above their competition.

        When you are an elite team, going 3-3 against other elite teams is perfectly acceptable. I would be worried if they went 1-5 or 0-6.

        Many teams that we consider “great” have taken all 7 games to win a playoff series. It isn’t always a 4-0 sweep.

      • llfreedman - Mar 27, 2012 at 8:23 PM

        David,

        I’m talking about the Heat and the expectations placed on them as well as what they put on themselves (not 3, not 4, not 5, ect. You are giving your subjective opinion and that’s totally fine. I’m not a Heat fan so honestly I hope you’re right. Can’t wait to see what happens!

  4. watermelon1 - Mar 26, 2012 at 3:26 AM

    QUITNESS!

  5. losangelasbasketball - Mar 26, 2012 at 5:13 AM

    Obviously the Heat didn’t get the memo from the media that they were playing in a “statement game”…

  6. david8726 - Mar 26, 2012 at 5:43 AM

    I think the Heat are really missing Mike Miller. He was that dynamic 4th option on the team, really filling in all the holes that the Heat needed. Rebounds in traffic, spot on passing and the best three point percentage in the league. Without him, they just don’t look as deep.

    Also, Chalmers and Battier haven’t played nearly as well since the all star break.

    The Heat were blowing teams up by 10+ points a game when those three guys were hitting their threes and playing well every game in support of the big 3. With that production diminished, they look very mortal.

    Meanwhile, the Thunder are playing well from top to bottom. Their stars are playing well and all the supporting guys are doing their jobs. They look like they could win the championship the way they’re playing now.

  7. gmsingh - Mar 26, 2012 at 7:39 AM

    Has anyone stumbled upon the possibility that the Heat may be worse this year than last year?

    • drunkenjunk - Mar 26, 2012 at 8:41 AM

      how so? They have a healthy Haslem. They have Cole instead of Bibby and also added Battier. This season is to condensed to put to much stock into any one game.

      • losangelasbasketball - Mar 26, 2012 at 8:52 AM

        “This season is to condensed to put to much stock into any one game.”
        What’s the logic, just curious….

      • drunkenjunk - Mar 26, 2012 at 12:01 PM

        I just feel that with condensed schedule, some of the better teams might not bring their best every night. I’m in no way a Heat apoligist. Just looking at the teams that went on big runs earlier in the season and seeing how they have fallen by the wayside. Nuggets, 76ers, Blazers all started huge and now are around or below .500. Then you have the Spurs who I really don’t think will perform anywhere near what their record is in the playoffs, despite how good they’ve looked in the last couple months.

      • kappneffect - Mar 26, 2012 at 9:16 AM

        Lol… you wouldn’t, huh?

      • comeonnowguys - Mar 26, 2012 at 1:04 PM

        And yet the Bulls, with injuries, are doing what they’re doing.

        I’m not saying that guarantees a championship; I’m saying the Heat have looked surprisingly lost in some games they should have been up for.

  8. 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 26, 2012 at 7:39 AM

    As the Mad Dog always said, Get you ass whipped, say you got your ass whipped.

  9. pastortodd78 - Mar 26, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    Seriously no mention of the ball movement by OKC? Yes the Thunder love to run and get fast break points. But here lately they seem to be finding a rhythm in the half court with some ball movement. KD had 8 assists tonight and quit a few times where he had a hockey assist (the pass to set up the pass). Let’s get some real perspective on the game please.

  10. hillzmickelzon - Mar 26, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    The heat look small and lebron just gave up and stated shooting long jumpers, chris bosh doesnt want to rebound and somebody get rasheed wallace on the phone asap.. joel anthony is not cutting it he is too small

    • pl4tinum514 - Mar 26, 2012 at 12:29 PM

      That’s what Lebron does when the going gets tough. He stands on the perimeter, hoping someone with some balls will win the game for the team.

  11. glink123 - Mar 26, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    Would love to see the Heat lose in the second round and not even make it to the much anticipated ECF matchup against the Bulls. I hate Pat Riley.

    • kappneffect - Mar 26, 2012 at 9:17 AM

      hahahaha…..

  12. heat256 - Mar 26, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    Oh the sky is falling!! Get a grip. They got their azzes handed to them last year by the top teams and still made the Finals. Anyone expecting them to win every game this year is fooling themselves. It’s a long season and anything can happen in the playoffs. The key is getting there healthy and playing well. Give OKC all the credit. they ran them out of the arena last night. It will be interesting to see if MIA gives them the same energy in their house when they play them. It would be a great Finals matchup but the real one will be MIA vs CHI in the ECF.

    • pudgalvin - Mar 26, 2012 at 9:11 AM

      I think the bigger concern is in the last month, they’re 3-5 on the road, with losses to a Roseless Bulls team, a beatdown by the Thunder, and the Lakers loss. Last night was just one game, but it seems that as good as they are at home, they do seem to have some issues playing on the road.

      • kappneffect - Mar 26, 2012 at 9:21 AM

        His name is Heat256….hahahaha, enough said.

      • heat256 - Mar 26, 2012 at 10:17 AM

        I do agree. Offhand I can’t recall, but they played better on the road last year. I just think they are trying to pace themselves and not get anyone injured this year perhaps? To read too deeply into it is futile. A #1 seed can lose to the #8, so logic is hard to stick to when it comes to the NBA playoffs. I do worry about their size and rebounding. They are a finesse team, and not blessed with true power players. That, if anything, will be their undoing.

      • pudgalvin - Mar 26, 2012 at 10:22 AM

        Certainly no shame in losing on the road to the Bulls, Lakers and Thunder, but it does bear watching. Throw in 2 road losses at Orlando, and they’ve yet to beat any of the four teams that pose the biggest threat to them on the road.

      • david8726 - Mar 26, 2012 at 3:35 PM

        It’s about how you’re playing in the playoffs. Not right now.

        They are having a stretch of mediocre play by their standards. But they can rebound and perform better a month from now.

  13. kappneffect - Mar 26, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    OKC balled last night! I loved it

    ….and it’s a great day in sports indeed!….when the Heat lose.

  14. rodge1 - Mar 26, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    Hats off to OKC. They came out to play and the Heat came out flat. Looking forward to those 2 in the finals. Chicago is almost there, they’re just one skilled big-man away from the next level. These are great times to be NBA fan

  15. asublimeday - Mar 26, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    Hats off to OKC. They came out to play and the Heat came out flat. Looking forward to those 2 in the finals. Chicago is almost there, they’re just one skilled big-man away from the next level. These are great times to be NBA fan
    —————–

    Hate to break it to you, but Chicago IS the next level.

    • heat256 - Mar 26, 2012 at 10:22 AM

      Not if Thibodeau is intent on running them into the ground to secure the best record. Their defense is top notch, but who is their no 2 scorer? not Noah, not Boozer, def not Hamilton. Deng? Perhaps but he expends so much energy defending it can compromise his offensive game. I think CHI has a helluva team, but they may need to tweak it to get over the hump.

      • borderline1988 - Mar 26, 2012 at 7:04 PM

        I wouldn’t blame Thibodeau.

        Chicago is actually not a very good team on paper. There is only one reason why they have the best record in the NBA – Tom Thibodeau. That guy is the best defensive coach in the NBA, and it’s not even remotely close. He orchestrated Boston’s defense in 2008 (even if the credit goes to Doc Rivers) and he then turned Chicago into the best defensive team in the league. (As a side note – I’m a Raptors fan – I’d honestly trade away Toronto’s 2012 1rst round pick for Thibodeau. He’s that good. Toronto doesn’t need another Demar Derozan. They need to play defense on a consistent basis.)

        Fact is, Chicago can’t score the damn ball past Rose. Nobody on that team can create offense besides Rose. If you put Lebron on Rose, Rose will get tired and won’t be able to handle the scoring load. It will turn into a defensive slugfest, and Miami’s talent will ultimately prevail. I really have no qualms about betting on Miami beating Chicago in 5 games or less in the playoffs once again. Chicago’s only chance is if Rose goes absolutely crazy in that series. But he will get exhausted after a while. Just like last year.

        The Heat have always been able to beat the Lakers, and I’m not worried about the Spurs. The only team that should worry the Heat are the Thunder. As the author said, if the Heat can’t stop the Thunder’s front-court from scoring, they won’t win. Here’s hoping Spoelstra is a good enough coach to ensure that the Heat don’t get burned again by Perkins and Ibaka.

      • gmsingh - Mar 28, 2012 at 7:43 AM

        Compared to what? I watched the Heat/Thunder game intently as a Chicago fan, and nothing I saw on that court showed me that either team was better than the Bulls. Westbrook looked awful. Durant looked fantastic, except when they were stuck at 25 points for three or four minutes in the first. The Heat, meanwhile, looked they just wanted the season to be over. Chicago plays team basketball, and you have guys that otherwise wouldn’t be given a second look like C.J. Watson and John Lucas III step up and become big scorers, all while the MVP is still on the bench. Even if they don’t go all the way you have to give them their props for what they’ve done in the last two seasons.

  16. 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 26, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    If the Heat weren’t contenders, I would totally be on the OKC bandwagon right now. Damn they’re good. And fun. Like the Uni’s too.

    • philtration - Mar 26, 2012 at 1:01 PM

      You just confirmed what I thought you were right down to the letter.

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 26, 2012 at 1:53 PM

        Can’t like watching he Thunder play? Sorry if that violates some weird code of yours.
        If the Heat lose before the finals, and the Thunder make the finals, I’d like to see the Thunder win it.

        If the Heat plays the Thunder in the Finals? I hope the Heat rips their hearts out and send them back to Seattle.

      • david8726 - Mar 26, 2012 at 3:37 PM

        Oh, go away you friggen hater. All you do is spew venom toward the Heat and their fans.

      • philtration - Mar 26, 2012 at 6:49 PM

        They have neat Uni’s!
        It is like a fashion show and then all the payers prance down the catwalk and the fans believe that they have won something!
        OMG!
        OMG!

    • reupjosh - Mar 26, 2012 at 1:33 PM

      And people wonder why people hate on Heat Fans…

  17. southbeachtalent - Mar 26, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    Ahhh regular season, bring on the playoffs.

  18. emaimo80 - Mar 26, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    Heat would win it all if they can just never allow Shane battier to shoot a 3 pointer, or just release him!

  19. lakerluver - Mar 26, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    I don’t see Miami’s “Big 3″ getting much better. Therefore, they better win a title this year. Because OKC and Chicago are only gonna continue to improve. OKC especially is gonna be a monster for the whole league real soon. They’re top 5 or 6 players aren’t even close to their prime yet.

  20. lakerluver - Mar 26, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    If Miami doesn’t win it this season they may not ever win it with the “Big 3″. Don’t win it this season and the pressure goes up considerably next season. And as we’ve all “witnessed” LBJ doesn’t handle pressure very well.

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