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LeBron James, Miami Heat make their case at Thunder’s expense

Apr 4, 2012, 11:57 PM EDT

Miami Heat's James and Bosh wait for a rebound with Oklahoma City Thunder's Ibaka during the second half of their NBA basketball game in Miami Reuters

If this does end up being the NBA finals matchup, we are all in for a lot of fun. These teams are starting to develop a real dislike of each other.

Miami and Oklahoma City got together for an intense, physical, playoff-style game Wednesday were LeBron James make his MVP case and the Heat got a measure of revenge on Oklahoma City with a 98-93 win. They split their season series, each winning at home (OKC rolled the Heat two weeks ago).

It was a game where each team picked up some flagrants (including Russell Westbrook on LeBron and Kendrick Perkins on Dwyane Wade). There was some trash talking. There were messages both ways. You could feel a little playoff

Be careful about reading much into regular season statements — the Lakers dominated the Mavericks and the Bulls owned the Heat last regular season. But what we can say is that both of these teams are better on their home court and a finals series between them could be penciled in for seven games. Seven hard games.

One of the best part of Heat/Thunder games is that LeBron and Kevin Durant go head-to-head a lot.

After a sub-par performance in OKC (and lackluster play for a couple of weeks) LeBron came out with the kind of game that had him the clear frontrunner for the MVP back at the All-Star break. He dropped 34 points by starting out nailing threes then going into the post and bullying his way to the rim. All the time he was recognizing the play and hitting the open man — he finished with 10 assists. (A few of those were to Shane BattierJames Harden sagged off him a lot and the veteran made the Thunder pay.)

At the other end he was charged with stopping Kevin Durant — and nobody stops Kevin Durant. KD had 30 points on 21 shots but struggled from three (2-7) including missing a rushed deep three with 15 seconds remaining in the game that could have tied it. Westbrook added 28 but was just 9-26 shooting on the night.

The MVP race comes down to this — LeBron James has had the better statistical season, but voters (media members) are drawn to stories and narrative and as Durant is the great young player on the fun young team he has an advantage. Just like Derrick Rose did last year. This game put LeBron back in the mind of a lot of voters.

These are two teams with great athletes that like to play up-tempo — and you could feel the playoff series hatred starting to build a little. Both sides will say it’s one game and forgotten now, but they’ll remember just fine if both of them are playing in June.

  1. zlmillerkazz - Apr 5, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    OKC are the better team & with home court advantage would not lose to the Miami Heat in a 7 game series. The Heat got away with very obvious offensive/defensive fouls for most of the 2nd half. Thunder > Heat.

    • jt1138 - Apr 5, 2012 at 8:18 AM

      I don’t think you watched the same game as the rest of us….. The Heat fouled like crazy in the beginning of the 3rd quarter and were dirty fouled a few times in the 1st half. The Heat outplayed the Thunder, don’t be a sore loser.

    • heat256 - Apr 5, 2012 at 9:45 AM

      Ah, the tried and true BS defense of the home team getting the calls. Newsflash, Champ: Almost EVERY team, especially the elite ones, get the home calls. Try and not come out with that whiny azz defense of the Thunder. They are a damn good team and don’t need excuses like that made for them. they were beat by the better team on that night. Period. A Finals matchup with them would be ratings gold, and I’d still take the Heat 4-3 in a super close and competitive series.

  2. canehouse - Apr 5, 2012 at 12:43 AM

    A win is a win… I have to agree that OKC is deeper… but they are headed into somewhat uncharted territory… the HEAT are full of veterans and superstars that have much more pressure, and do or die exposure than the THUNDER. San Antonio and Chicago will have a say in this very exciting season too. Go HEAT!!!!

    • slowclyde86 - Apr 5, 2012 at 7:31 AM

      Maybe. Another possibility s that do or die pressure exposes a certain player. We shall see.

  3. seattlesuperchronic - Apr 5, 2012 at 1:37 AM

    zlmillerkazz

    Blah blah blah. Spurs are going to be a tough series for okc if they meet. I still wouldn’t sleep on the clippers yet, they match up well against okc

  4. trschlicht - Apr 5, 2012 at 1:45 AM

    Kevin Love = MVP

  5. asublimeday - Apr 5, 2012 at 2:27 AM

    Rose wasn’t the “fun young player” last season. He dominated the league in the regular season. Don’t take away from rose because you love how bron-bron tastes.

    • david8726 - Apr 5, 2012 at 3:16 AM

      Derrick Rose is a very, very good player. But he shouldn’t have been MVP last year.

      Dwight Howard, LeBron, Kobe, and Dirk all had better years. Rose was the leading scorer on the most dominant defensive team in the league, and a cool new story. The media is drawn to cool new stories like moths to a flame, so they handed him the MVP award.

  6. david8726 - Apr 5, 2012 at 3:15 AM

    Derrick Rose is a very, very good player. But he shouldn’t have been MVP last year.

    Dwight Howard, LeBron, Kobe, and Dirk all had better years. Rose was the leading scorer on the most dominant defensive team in the league, and a cool new story. The media is drawn to cool new stories like moths to a flame, so they handed him the MVP award.

    • blueintown - Apr 5, 2012 at 7:53 AM

      The media loves to give the MVP to cool new stories, which is why they’re going to give a 27 year old the MVP for the third time this year. Derrick Rose won the MVP because he was far and away the most dominant player on the most dominant team in the league last year.

      • david8726 - Apr 5, 2012 at 7:55 PM

        Yes, Derrick Rose was the best player on the Chicago Bulls last year, which happened to have the best record in the league (mostly because of their amazing defense).

        Do you know who else could have led that Bulls team to the best record in the NBA? Dirk, Kobe, Durant, LeBron, and Wade.

        All 5 of them could have changed places with Rose and did the exact same thing Rose did behind that incredible defense. Furthermore, all 5 of them could have probably done it even better than Rose did since all 5 of them were better players than Rose last year.

        Rose just wasn’t as good as those other guys.

  7. david8726 - Apr 5, 2012 at 3:23 AM

    This would probably be the most fun finals match up possible from a viewers stand point. Both teams are loaded with star power and play hard on both ends of the floor.

    Miami has to get past Chicago before that would ever be possible, though, so lets not get ahead of ourselves. Also, we shouldn’t assume the rest of the West will just roll over and die, letting OKC through to the finals unopposed.

    As for the MVP race…. I’m a Heat fan so I may be biased in thinking LeBron deserves the award. He’s had the best overall year in my mind. But Durant has just been incredible too. I wouldn’t be mad if he ended up winning it.

    At this point, LeBron and Durant are the two most dominant players in the league.

  8. sellahh - Apr 5, 2012 at 5:08 AM

    Love it how Perkins’ and Westbrook’s fouls happened on back-to-back possesions. Absolutely love it.

  9. u0123 - Apr 5, 2012 at 7:10 AM

    I think heat will win because they have wade and James but they may loose because they lost against the lakers

  10. canehouse - Apr 5, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    @ slowclyde… you’re correct we shall see… i feel like a certain player can only get stronger, inspired, and more resilient through past hardships. That certain player is putting together one of his greatest seasons ever. The playoffs can’t get here quick enough!

  11. jh4prez - Apr 5, 2012 at 8:16 AM

    When Lebrons three is hitting there is no better player in the nba.when he made that second three the camera panned to the okc bench.they all looked like”uh oh?”

  12. allball23 - Apr 5, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    Yea just dont flagerant foul Lebron in the playoffs and the heat won’t go anywhere. The way he played after no one could stop him

  13. 1972wasalongtimeago - Apr 5, 2012 at 9:38 AM

    The Heat’s “other guys” have to be more efficient. LBJ’s getting triple teamed. With nothing but wide open looks, the other guys (everyone but LBJ & DWade) shot 12-37. LBJ basically beat the Thunder 1 on 5. He’s the MVP, but for the Heat to win the championship, the other guys need to be at least average.

    • breezega - Apr 5, 2012 at 10:19 AM

      It would probably help if Chris Bosh shows up to these games. He looks a little timid out there with “Uncle Kendrick” playing.

  14. lakerluver - Apr 5, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    If they meet in the Finals the team with home court will win. OKC should’ve won last night. Their two stars can matchup with anyone else’s two stars. And their bench is the best in the NBA.

  15. miamatt - Apr 5, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    This games was a treat for all NBA fans- the regular season doesn’t get any better than this.

    In the end, nothing matters for Miami except who is holding the trophy when it is all said and done.

    As far as the MVP award goes, I am biased, but Lebron’s defensive impact far outshines Kevin Durant. Indeed, you could argue that Durant is the weakest defender in OKC’s starting 5. Kevin Durant’s last two shots (the baseline jumper that hit the side of the backboard, and the three point attempt that barely caught rim) came under heavy duress from LBJ. It might be a different type of clutch than nailing a game winner, but I’d say affecting Durantula’s shot(s) qualifies as just that. Handling the pressure of guarding somebody like Durant is just as important as stepping up to take that last shot.

    There comes a point in most elite players’ career where voters become numb to their respective performances. Michael Jordan could have won the MVP every year for a decade, but voters move on. In no way am I suggesting LBJ belongs anywhere near the Jordan conversation, but the point is nobody will care about the regular season greatness until he wins a title.

    That being said, James has been the best player this season, and Durant will probably win the MVP.

    • david8726 - Apr 5, 2012 at 7:58 PM

      Well thought out post.

      I think what you said about Jordan applies to Shaq as well. It’s ridiculous that Shaq only had one MVP in his career. To be specific, it was completely absurd that Iverson won it over Shaq one year. That’s the classic example of the media voting for a player to win MVP based on it being a “cool story” rather than who actually deserved it.

  16. phillipsta1 - Apr 5, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    WHOA WHOA WHOA. Kurt thinks LeBron got cheated out of the MVP last year? Man, I would have never suspected…

    Hey Kurt, I heard LeBron also has to pay taxes, wipe his own butt, and put his pants on one leg at a time. Disgusting right? How can we treat a Godlike figure so poorly? I lose sleep at night thinking about how unfairly we all treat him.

    • david8726 - Apr 5, 2012 at 8:01 PM

      I’m just curious – Why do you think that Kurt is biased toward LeBron?

      You realize that Kurt is a former Lakers blogger, right? And that as a general rule, Lakers fans tend to be more negative about LeBron, because they prefer to believe that Kobe is a better player.

      All Kurt has ever tried to do is be fair to LeBron (which to a LeBron hater must SEEM like bias, since they couldn’t imagine anyone ever saying anything positive about LeBron).

      With that being said, did you ever stop to consider that Kurt is just being FAIR to LeBron?

  17. ishudbgm - Apr 5, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    Last night’s game was good but meant nothing. KD with 9 turnovers (career high), Westbrook 9-26, the Heat as a team shot like 37%, and Wade did look like his knee took away some of his burst. Last night was physical and is just a teaser for what the finals could end up being. What if LBJ wins the triple crown this year…..MVP, Title, and Finals MVP……would that take him beyond the Kobe comparison?

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Apr 5, 2012 at 3:29 PM

      To paraphrase LeBatard , Lebron can hit the game winner at he buzzer in every playoff game, including game 7 of the finals, and they’ll still say he couldn’t do it without Wade.

  18. md23rewlz - Apr 5, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    Remember last week when Miami lost to Boston and everybody freaked out because LeBron and Wade were saying that the game didn’t matter (more or less)? Yeah, that game didn’t matter. There’s nothing left to microanalyze with Miami/Chicago/OKC. All three are great teams, we know who they are, and the regular season is not really a thing of consequence for any of them at this point. That being said, I’m sure Miami will lose some game in the next week or so, and then people will freak out again because the team is in a deserved coast mode. Can’t we just fast forward to the ECF and get Miami-Chicago underway already? #pleasedon’tclickdislikejustbecauseyouhatetheheat #iamnotaheatfanjustafanofnotfreakingout #otherannoyinghashtag

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