Last night’s affair did not start off well for the Thunder at all. Although a quick Serge Ibaka jump shot started the scoring off, that lone bucket was quickly met by a 22-2 run that established an 18-point lead for the Heat (22-4) with 6:20 to play in the 1st. I was watching it while doing night classes last night, and I actually heard someone watching it in the break room go, “Well, it’s over for the Thunder.” Obviously that kid spoke too soon, as the Thunder subsequently hit a 14-0 run of their own to pull within 6 (22-16) with 2:04 remaining in the 1st. That’s when the Heat suddenly found themselves having to work to hold back the Thunder. The 1st quarter ended with a 9-point Heat lead (30-21).
With the Heat lead still at 7 (44-37), and 5:31 left in the half, the Thunder sparked a 14-2 run to establish their first lead since the opening seconds, 51-46 with 1:45 to play until halftime. The Thunder lead was still 5 (55-50) at the break.
Unfortunately for the Heat, a 46-44 lead at the 3:16 mark of the 2nd would be their last lead of the game. Once the Thunder tied it at 46-all with 2:57 to play in the first half, they completely took the game over. The second half was all Thunder. They even lead by as much as 25 (101-76 with 8:23 to play) at one point, and ended the game with a 112-95 victory that puts the Thunder at 37-10 for the season, while dropping the Heat to 32-13.
An interesting stat posted by a friend of mine to Facebook shows that out of the last 15 seasons in the NBA, teams have trailed by 18 or more in the 1st quarter a total of 628 times. Of those 628 games, 551 of them were outright losses, and 70 of them turned into wins. Yet the Thunder game was one of only 3 total incidents in the last 15 years where the trailing team won by 15 or more.
Another smart move by the Thunder was to sit Kendrick Perkins and put Perry Jones at the 5 spot. Perkins was subbed out with the score 15-2, and the Thunder outscored the Heat 53-35 up to halftime. If the Thunder have learned anything in regards to playing Miami, it’s that they need to play small ball. Perkins doesn’t have the foot speed required to get back in transition on defense to stop Heat fast breaks.
“The Slim Reaper” does it again. (I’m loving that nickname for him, by the way.) Kevin Durant’s 33 points marks his 12th straight 30+ point game. And yet, the reason for the Thunder’s current 9-win streak is due to the fact that Durant doesn’t need to do it all on his own. Ibaka dropped 22 points of his own last night, while Jeremy Lamb and Derek Fisher combined for 32 points off of the Thunder bench (Lamb: 18, Fisher: 15). Fisher was red-hot behind that 3-point arc last night, going 5-for-5.
The “Big 3” of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh were the only ones who bothered to show last night. James’ 34 points led all scorers to take the floor, while Wade dropped 15, and Bosh pitched in 18. The entire Heat Bench (which was seven players deep) managed a grand total of 21 points.
This was a great win for the Thunder, but now they are headed to Brooklyn to get their win back against the Nets tomorrow night. Their meeting back on 1-2-14 resulted in a 95-93 heartbreaker for the Thunder, as Joe Johnson’s buzzer-beater stole a Nets victory. Since this will be their final match-up this year, the best the Thunder can hope for now is a season-series split. The game will emanate from Barclays Center, and tip-off is scheduled for 7pm CST. The game will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and ESPN.