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Durant will get his against Miami, can Heat limit everyone else?

Jan 29, 2014, 2:59 PM EST

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat Getty Images

It was a strategy that worked for a time early on in the Bulls’ Jordan era — let Michael Jordan get his; just make sure nobody else gets going. Defend him physically, but make sure the other guys don’t start racking up stats, too. Eventually that didn’t work anymore as Jordan improved his team play and got better teammates (and a better system to fit them in). That same strategy has been used at times on Kobe Bryant, and on the Suns-era Steve Nash (make him a shooter not a passer) with some success.

Should the Heat try that against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder in a showdown Wednesday night?

Durant is on an MVP caliber roll — this is not voter fatigue with LeBron James, this is Kevin Durant being just that good. It’s not just that Durant is averaging 37.5 points a game in his last 10, it’s that he’s shooting 45.8 percent from three and has a true shooting percentage of 69.8 percent in that time. He’s been ridiculously efficient. Look at his shot chart from the last 10 games.

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So how important is it to end Durant’s streak of 11 30+ point games, LeBron James was asked, as reported at Fox Sports Florida.

“Oh yeah, it’s a challenge. It’s not secondary it’s first-dary,” said James, adding that doing so wouldn’t be easy.

But maybe the answer isn’t spending all their energy on Durant but rather taking away everything else.

If Durant scores 50 but Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and the rest of the Oklahoma squad struggles, Miami will get its win. In this recent run every night somebody has stepped up and provided some scoring behind Durant, we just haven’t noticed as we have been dazzled by the brilliance of Durant. If Miami can crank up its pressure defense and force Jackson, Lamb and Thabo Sefolosha into turnovers that become Miami transition buckets, they can win.

For Oklahoma City, one key is to keep crashing the offensive glass — in the last 20 games OKC has grabbed the offensive board on 32.6 percent of their missed shots. That’s a lot of second chances and easy putbacks. Miami is not exactly a powerhouse team on the boards. The Thunder can exploit this.

What we all want to see Wednesday is a lot of LeBron on Durant, mono-a-mano. We likely will get some of that, you can bet LeBron will get a turn guarding Durant, especially if the game is close late.

But if the Heat let Durant make a play like an MVP shooter yet shut down everyone else, this game will end a lot like when these teams met in the 2012 NBA Finals.

  1. legend30 - Jan 29, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    Does anyone else feel like Serge Ibaka is underrated?

    • bougin89 - Jan 29, 2014 at 3:46 PM

      I wouldn’t say he is overrated. He’s a good shot blocker(not an incredible defender though) and on offense he’s good as a role player.

      • legend30 - Jan 29, 2014 at 6:10 PM

        ^ Good point. He’s a very solid player, I wonder if he already reached his max-potential.

      • bougin89 - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:08 AM

        I think he probably has as a shot blocker but he could definitely be more polished offensively and he seems like a hard working guy. Remember he’s only 24.

  2. zerole00 - Jan 29, 2014 at 3:33 PM

    Oh yeah, it’s a challenge. It’s not secondary it’s first-dary,” said James

    The word you’re looking for is “primary”. lol wow

    • rossthebosspalmer - Jan 29, 2014 at 3:56 PM

      I hope both Lebron and Durant end up with “fourple doubles”…

    • antistratfordian - Jan 29, 2014 at 4:35 PM

      That’s what you would call a joke, guy.

  3. cantonbound13 - Jan 29, 2014 at 4:00 PM

    Expect a lot of LeBroning

  4. antistratfordian - Jan 29, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    What typically happens between these two teams is OKC will try to keep Durant off LeBron as much as possible, and Miami will respond by keeping LeBron off Durant until the 4th quarter. Sure, KD will get his through 3 quarters on someone like Battier, but that changes down the stretch with LeBron on him. This has worked very well for Miami in the past, so if it ain’t broke…

    But if OKC wants to keep Durant on LeBron all game, then that’s the ideal scenario for Miami. At worst a direct LeBron vs Durant matchup will break even for the Heat. Miami can then reasonably expect Wade and Bosh to outplay OKC’s 2nd and 3rd options (with Westbrook out) – especially at home.

    Personally, what I would do when Westbrook is out is double-team Durant every time he touches the ball. I saw one team do this last year I think for an entire half, and they had great success. Miami also did this last year a little bit – but I would do it much more often. Not every team can do this, but Miami’s defense has the hustle and discipline to handle it. KD can be very turnover prone – he just had 11 turnovers a few games ago, and for his career he averages as many turnovers as assists (3.3. vs 3.2). He can be a very careless passer, so force him to pass as much as often as possible.

    On the flip side, how do you defend LeBron? You can’t double-team him because his passing is as deadly as his scoring… and you don’t really have anyone to make life difficult for him one-on-one. Their best bet is to do what the Spurs did, which is what teams tried to do against Michael Jordan – “Teams started… figuring the weakest part of my game was my outside shot. Most teams decided that they would rather see me shoot from the perimeter than let me get into the paint” – and like with MJ you can only pray that LeBron doesn’t make every jumper.

    • money2long - Jan 29, 2014 at 9:19 PM

      does lebron ask you to shave his nuts as well while doing your job at holding them ?

      • belleby123 - Jan 30, 2014 at 7:16 AM

        LOL.

      • antistratfordian - Jan 30, 2014 at 7:12 PM

        I’m not going to assist your strange fantasies, lewdster. You’ll have to look elsewhere for the rainbow titillation you seek.

      • money2long - Jan 31, 2014 at 7:39 PM

        oooooooooo big words hahahahaha

  5. jolink653 - Jan 29, 2014 at 4:41 PM

    I’d say Ibaka is underrated in the sense that he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for where this team is. Obviously that attention is gonna go to KD and Westbrook, but Ibaka really impacts games with his timely blocks and his rebounding. He’s not an elite one-on-one defender, but his presence on the floor impacts what opposing teams do. His offensive game was raw and is really developing well, and he’s still only 24, so he is still a developing player.

    • cmehustle - Jan 29, 2014 at 6:04 PM

      The reason he doesnt get credit from fans at least is because a lot of people feel that they kept him over keeping Harden. Many people will not forgive OKC for that unless he seriously steps up his game. I for one think like you, he is extremely underrated and young which is most important.

  6. sackings916 - Jan 29, 2014 at 6:44 PM

    Question for you guys: Who would you start your team with (if building one from scratch) Durant or Lebron?

    • shanelsweet - Jan 29, 2014 at 7:19 PM

      Always start with the guy with the rings is the simple answer. There’s not much KD does offensively or defensively that’s better than Lebron, and Lebron recruits other players much better so far.

    • casualcommenter - Jan 29, 2014 at 8:39 PM

      LeBron’s peak as an elite 2-way player has – so far – been higher than Durant’s peak. Durant is a better scorer, but LeBron is a better defender and facilitator.

      However, LeBron is 29 years old, which is four years older than Durant. LeBron grew tremendously as a player from age 25 to 29, and Durant could do the same, so nobody knows how high Durant’s peak will be a few years from now.

      So if you ask me now, I pick LeBron. 4 years from now, I MIGHT change to Durant if Durant continues to improve.

  7. money2long - Jan 29, 2014 at 9:28 PM

    have the fans left the stadium yet … ?

  8. apkyletexas - Jan 29, 2014 at 9:54 PM

    Wow – that Miami bench is far worse than I thought.

    King James and the Seven Dwarves.

  9. kb2408 - Jan 29, 2014 at 10:43 PM

    The LBJ lovers always point to his stats, well: KD had 1 less pt, more assists and more rebounds than LBJ. Many of LBJ’s pts came when OKC was up by 20. KD led his team to a blowout victory on LBJ’s home court without his sidekick and OKC’s second best player.

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