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Heat knock Thunder out of rhythm, hang on for close win

Dec 25, 2012, 11:33 PM EDT

Miami Heat's LeBron James is defended by Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka in Miami Reuters

If this is going to be the NBA finals again, I am all good with that. In fact, can we start it tomorrow?

The Thunder and Heat gave us all the Christmas Day gift of what felt as close to playoff game as you are going to get in December— it was physical, intense, even Kevin Durant and LeBron James were jawing at each other by the end of this one.

And just like the last three times the Heat and Thunder played in Miami it was the Heat that came away with the win, 103-97.

This win means nothing if these teams meet again in June — there are no statement games in December. But the game did remind us of a few things.

Miami makes things a struggle for the Thunder like seemingly no other team in the NBA can do. If you watched games from Oklahoma City’s recent 12-game winning streak you would see fantastic ball movement, great spacing and guys getting good looks in the flow of the offense. But the Heat take the Thunder out of that flow — Oklahoma City becomes a team that likes too much isolation and doesn’t move off the ball.

The result is when you need a three to tie the game with 14 seconds left you end up with Durant taking a contested step-back three with LeBron in his face. (As for Russell Westbrook being fouled on that next three… I don’t know. The review was inconclusive. But OKC wouldn’t have needed a three if they had defended on what became a Chris Bosh dunk the play before. One foul never loses you a game by itself.)

Miami raced off to a 13-2 start with LeBron James throwing down dunks to get off to a fast start on his way to a huge 29-point, 8 rebound, 9 assist game. He made a statement that if you are going to have a conversation about the MVP and have Carmelo Anthony and Durant in it go ahead, but you better have LeBron in that mix as well.

The Thunder closed that gap with the three by the end of the first quarter and eventually tied it up 39-39. We had a game the rest of the way.

For Miami we had a Mario Chalmers sighting — he had 20 points and shot 4-of-8 from three. Dwyane Wade had 21 points, Chris Bosh 16.

For the Thunder, it was 33 for Durant in the kind of quality game an MVP has on the big stage. But after that things dropped off a little — Westbrook had 21 points but needed 19 shots to get them, Kevin Martin had 15 but hit just 4-of-10 shots.

The real question I have for Scottie Brooks — why so much Kendrick Perkins, particularly late in the game. Perkins has a role on your team against the Lakers or Grizzlies, but against the Heat he seems lost without a position and was exposed by the Heat.

And with all that, it was a six point final score in a game the Thunder had a shot in. They need to play at their peak to beat the Heat and we didn’t see that on Christmas just like we didn’t last June. Like the protagonist in an action movie, the Heat are going to have to play at a new level to beat the Heat in a series. Oklahoma City may have that in them but their margin for error is small. And we saw too many little mistakes.

But it’s close.

It could be different if they meet in the finals. And if that happens, I’m good with it.

  1. Mr. Wright 212 - Dec 25, 2012 at 11:37 PM

    I won’t even say it, I’m sure someone else will say it for me…

    • zblott - Dec 26, 2012 at 2:14 AM

      I assume you’re referring to the refs flat-out handing this game to the Heat down the stretch. It was almost TOO obvious.

    • edweird0 - Dec 26, 2012 at 3:08 AM

      Hahahahaha

  2. buffalowned - Dec 25, 2012 at 11:39 PM

    maybe this game is what it takes to get lebron on top of the mvp race…seems like the media is set on awarding it to either durant or carmelo

    • scalfor3 - Dec 26, 2012 at 12:04 AM

      lebron is like brady in football. its boring giving him the mvp at this point

    • eventhorizon04 - Dec 26, 2012 at 12:26 AM

      A Few Factors working against LeBron:

      1. Durant and Carmelo are playing great, period, and are having arguably the best seasons in their careers.
      Durant is averaging 28-8-4, with 52 FG -43 3PT-90 FT shooting
      Carmelo is averaging 28-6-2, with 47 FG-44 3PT-83 FT shooting

      2. LeBron’s numbers are good but “normal” for him, so people aren’t as wowed by him averaging 25-9-7, with a career-high 54% FG, as they would from other players.

      3. The Heat’s win-loss record is slightly worse than OKC’s and the Knicks. Also, while LeBron’s team beat Durant’s team tonight, the Heat have lost twice to the Carmelo’s Knicks (though one time Carmelo didn’t play). That factors into MVP decisions.

      4. MVP-voter fatigue. I’ve seen multiple journalists in interviews admit that some years they didn’t vote for Michael Jordan for MVP in the 1990’s simply because they were tired of voting for him. In other words, if LeBron and an MVP candidate who has never won an MVP are “tied” at the end of this season, expect people to vote against LeBron since he has already won 3 MVPs. He only wins MVP this year if he has a conclusively better season than the other guys. This trend is nothing new or unique to LeBron, but it works against him.

      • musilly - Dec 26, 2012 at 11:11 AM

        Nicely put.

        Another factor working against LeBron:
        the media’s (offensive!) bias against defense. The focus tends is on box-score offense stats and W-L record.

        LeBron is obviously much better defensively than the other major MVP candidates (Paul, Carmelo, Durant), but he doesn’t seem to get many (enough) MVP points for that.

  3. captainwisdom8888 - Dec 26, 2012 at 12:04 AM

    Lebron on winning championships with the big 3… “Not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6″ implying they can win more rings than that. Such a ridiculous statement at the time. But im so scared that they might just do it… after watching them handle the Thunder who I think are the most well rounded team in the game. yikes man what can the league possibly do to defeat this megateam other than attempt to stack their own team…a la Los Angeles Lakers

    yea im rantin..

  4. eventhorizon04 - Dec 26, 2012 at 12:11 AM

    Great game.

    All the people here who complain about LeBron and Durant training together during the offseason because they think that means these guys are “too friendly” with each other should watch this game. There’s no evidence *on the court* that these guys aren’t competing at 100%, and so long as that’s the case, I don’t care what they do off the court.

    Durant regularly drops 30+ points against the Heat, and LeBron regularly comes close to a triple-double against the Thunder, so it’s *impossible* argue that either guy is cutting the other some slack due to their friendship. They’re not friends on the basketball court.

    • dko83 - Dec 26, 2012 at 12:42 AM

      That “too friendly” argument is really dumb to begin with and you are absolutely right.. Just a regular season game but you can tell both those guys wanted the win..

    • musilly - Dec 26, 2012 at 11:15 AM

      Yeah, and the people lamenting that their train *together* aren’t being specific enough.
      Sure, they’re training “together.”
      More specifically, they’re training *against* each other, using each other as motivation to get better.
      The result is what we saw yesterday. Great basketball competition.
      The critics need to get their act “together.”

  5. progress2011 - Dec 26, 2012 at 1:13 AM

    Excellent display of “TEAM BALL” by both teams

    vs

    Having one dude always trying to “Take Over” a game by throwing up a bunch of bricks.

  6. jerdogthompson - Dec 26, 2012 at 3:04 AM

    Perhaps you should wait and see what the finals will bring?

  7. redbaronx - Dec 26, 2012 at 4:42 AM

    Who hired Kurt Helin and when the hell is he going to get fired???? This imbecile keeps making elementary school mistakes:

    “Like the protagonist in an action movie, the Heat are going to have to play at a new level to beat the Heat in a series.”

    So Kurt “Helen” let me get this straight. The Heat are going to have to play at a new level to beat (the Heat) themselves in a series??? Please PBT. Fire this guy and stop embarressing NBC, and stop contributing to the mental delinquency of all the kids who read his grammatically problematic, and often inaccurate, factually challenged posts. (who can forget the FIVE championships the Bulls won…It’s SIX Kurt in case you haven’t looked that one up yet!)

    • davidly - Dec 26, 2012 at 6:24 AM

      Why so tense, dude?

    • jm9ulose - Dec 26, 2012 at 6:39 AM

      Well Mr. Hypocrite. You did spell embarrassing wrong. No one is perfect. But be sure to not have any spelling errors the next time you feign being intelligent by looking up words in the dictionary and ranting in a post.

  8. fanofevilempire - Dec 26, 2012 at 7:17 AM

    Melo, Durant, LeBron and C. Paul ALL have legit shot at the MVP, a lot if it has to do
    with popularity too. Here is another name for you, Harden and how about Nash if the Lakers
    make some noise!

    it is only December, 2013 hasn’t even come in.

    maybe the Heat and Thunder don’t even make the finals

  9. 1972wasalongtimeago - Dec 26, 2012 at 8:01 AM

    Two great teams. Two transcendent players. One day posters on this site will be talking about those LBJ/KD games of the 2010s as the good old days, when the game was played the wright, excuse me, right way. How the stars of tomorrow can’t hold a candle to James or Durant.

    Any fan of the game, not just Mia/OKC fans, have to savor this while we have it. Their rivalry is one they’re going to make documentaries about. And we get to enjoy it now as its playing out.

    • davidly - Dec 26, 2012 at 8:56 AM

      I totally get you. Kind of like the old Rheinhold Spence vs. Skibby MaRue arguments when we were coming up.

  10. 1972wasalongtimeago - Dec 26, 2012 at 8:06 AM

    As far as MVP talk, I’ll guarantee you neither KD nor LBJ cares about it one bit. Give it to Melo. He wants it more. These guys don’t need some sportswriter checking a box with their name on it for validation. The MVP is actually beneath them both.

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