7:00 PM ET, January 29, 2014
AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL
That's exactly what happened.
And they enjoyed every moment.
Durant remained sizzling with 33 points, Serge Ibaka added 22 and the Thunder roared back from an abysmal start -- they trailed 22-4 early -- to embarrass the Miami Heat 112-95 on Wednesday night, erasing that big deficit out of the gate by outscoring the two-time defending champions by 43 points over a 33-minute span.
"They were ready for us to come in and play," Durant said. "They hit some tough shots early on, a few 3's, and we didn't panic. We just tried to stay together and that's what we did. Our bench was great in getting us back in that game."
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The bottom line from this game: There is no longer a discernible gap between LeBron James and Kevin Durant, Brian Windhorst writes. Dime
By benching Kendrick Perkins just minutes in Wednesday, the Thunder beat the Heat at their own small-ball game, writes Tom Haberstroh. Blog
The Thunder led by as many as 25, and shot 16 for 27 from 3-point range. Miami was 3 for 19 from beyond the arc.
Durant has now scored at least 30 points in 12 straight games, matching the league's longest such streak since Tracy McGrady did it in 14 consecutive outings in the 2002-03 season. The Thunder extended their winning streak to nine, inching them closer to Indiana in the race for the league's best record.
"There's no running away from it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Other than the first eight minutes of the game they outclassed us tonight. They absolutely deserved this win."
LeBron James scored 34 points for Miami, his 1-on-1 duel with Durant not really amounting to much on a night in which the Heat allowed 25 points off turnovers and blew an 18-point lead for just the fourth time since he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh became teammates nearly four years ago.
Bosh scored 18 points and Wade added 15 for Miami.
"We played well to start the game," James said. "We played well all the way until like the second quarter. From that point on they did what they want to do."
Much of the buzz going into the night was about the MVP race, and how this might be the season that Durant finally catches James for the league's top individual award.
Head-to-head, they weren't separated by much. But for just the fourth time in 17 meetings between their teams, Durant came out on top.
SportsNation: Thunder dominate Heat
Can OKC contend without Westbrook? Any chance Durant doesn't win MVP? Are Heat still title contenders? Vote! »
"It would have been fun to clear the court and watch them go 1-on-1," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
Ibaka opened the scoring with a jumper, and the Heat answered with an immediate 18-0 run, not even needing 5 minutes to get what appeared to be complete control. With 6:20 left in the opening quarter, Bosh made a pair of free throws to make it 22-4.
That pretty much ended the Heat highlights for the evening.
By the end of the first, the Thunder were within nine. Lamb scored 13 in the second quarter alone, helping Oklahoma City take a 55-50 lead into the break, with the Thunder already having scored 19 points off turnovers.
The third quarter, Durant and the Thunder put it away.
Durant and James seemed to be playing a little game of `Can you top this?' in that period, both finishing with 12 points in the 12 minutes. The difference was, Durant was getting plenty of help, and James wasn't getting much.
"Rucker Park, that's what was going through my head," Durant said, referring to the New York basketball landmark where he scored 66 points in a game during the summer of 2011. "It was fun. ... I'm sure the fans got what they wanted to see with that one."
Said James: "It's fun competition. It's been a while since I was able to do something like that."
Fisher connected on a 3-pointer to end the quarter, pushing Oklahoma City's margin to 16, and the Heat had no answers in the fourth.
"We have some work to do," Spoelstra said. "We're like everybody else in the league. Nobody is infallible. We have some things to improve on. We know the things we have to improve on. We're not there yet."
Fisher made five 3-pointers, total, when the Heat faced the Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals. ... Shug McGaughey, who trained last year's Kentucky Derby winner Orb, was part of the sellout crowd, along with Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera. ... Oklahoma City shot 14 free throws in the third quarter, the most by any Heat opponent in that period all season. ... The Heat fell to 7-12 this season when allowing more than 100 points. They're 25-1 when holding teams under 100. ... The Thunder are 8-0 on the road against Eastern Conference opponents.
MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 29: Ray Allen #34 of the Miami Heat shoots the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the...(Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
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MVP: Kevin Durant. Who else? 33 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and the unspeakable levels of caution and fear he struck into Miami's defense, which struggled to slow Oklahoma City in any way after the first quarter.
X factor: 3-point shooting. The Thunder were 16-for-27, while the Heat were 3-for-19, making for a 39-point swing that was more than the difference in this game.
That was ... a beatdown. The Thunder's defense crunched, their offense cracked and they looked utterly comfortable and self-assured dismantling the champions on their home floor -- without Russell Westbrook. Look out.
Next 5 Games
The Thunder assisted on 13 of their 16 3-point field goals Wednesday (81.3 percent), 10 of which came on catch and shoots. Entering the night, the Thunder had assisted on a league-low 71.7 percent of their made 3-pointers.[+]
3-Point Shooting on Catch-and-Shoots Wednesday
Kevin Durant didn't guard LeBron James frequently Wednesday, but Durant got the upper hand on both ends of the floor. James made Durant settle for long jumpers all night, but Durant still went 9-of-17 for 23 points against James. James was nearly unstoppable when anyone else guarded him Wednesday. James was 10-of-14 when not guarded by Durant with an average field goal distance of 10.4 feet. James went a combined 8-of-9 (21 points) against Perry Jones and Thabo Sefolosha.[+]
Durant and James When Guarded by Each Other Wednesday
Kendrick Perkins started the game for the Thunder Wednesday night but was pulled 4:36 into the game with the Thunder trailing 15-2, and he never returned. The Thunder opted for a small lineup the rest of the way, with Perry Jones playing 30 minutes (season average: 11.1). The Thunder failed to record a single fast-break point with Perkins on the court. Once Perkins left, the Thunder outscored the Heat by 30, scoring 20 fast-break points in the process.
Kevin Durant had his usual 30+ point game, but the Thunder received 33 points combined from Derek Fisher and Jeremy Lamb. The pair came off the bench to match the scoring output of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.[+]
Durant's currently averaging over 30 points and shooting over 40 percent from the 3-point line. The only other player to average 30 points while shooting 40+ percent from 3-point range in a single season was Michael Jordan (1995-96).
Kevin Durant is just 3-13 in his career head-to-head against LeBron James, but don't blame his offense... While Durant has seen a slight bump in turnovers, he averages more points per game while shooting better from the floor against James' teams compared to all other games in his career.[+]
The Thunder trailed by as many as 18 in the 1st quarter. That ties the biggest deficit Oklahoma City has faced in an opening quarter in the last 3 seasons. The team also trailed by 18 in the 1st quarter against the Timberwolves on Nov. 1st this season. Minnesota would go on to win by 19.
Something to keep in mind when referencing Kevin Durant's 3-13 head-to-head record against LeBron James... Michael Jordan was just 5-11 in his 1st 16 meetings with Charles Barkley. Jordan would go 26-13 against Barkley the rest of his career including a 12-4 mark in the playoffs.[+]
1st 16 Head-to-Head Meetings - Notable Rivalries
If Kevin Durant wants to keep up his shooting numbers, he'll have to focus on those 5-to-14 footers. His highest field goal percentages on those shots over the last two seasons have come against the two teams he faces to close out the month, Miami and Brooklyn (min. 2 games). His field goal percentages inside 5 feet and from 15 or more feet against the Heat are his third worst against a single team over the last two seasons (min. 2 games).[+]
Highest Field Goal Pct On FG 5-14 Feet - Kevin Durant Last 2 Seasons (Min. 2 Games)
Kevin Durant has scored at least 30 points in 11 straight games and he faces one of the best individual defenders, and one of the best defensive teams on Wednesday, in LeBron James and the Heat. But he could be poised to continue this hot stretch. Why Kevin Durant could go off on Wednesday: * He's scored 30 points 8 times in 16 career games vs LeBron James... But 7 times in 11 games vs LeBron since he joined the Heat * He's averaged 29.5 PPG in 16 career games vs LeBron James... But 31.5 PPG in 11 games vs LeBron since he joined the Heat * He shoots 50.3% in 16 career games vs LeBron James... But 52.4% in 11 games vs LeBron since he joined the Heat * He has 15 offensive rebounds in 16 career games vs LeBron James... But 13 in 11 games vs LeBron since he joined the Heat * He's taken a bigger share of the load since Russell Westbrook got hurt on Christmas Day.[+]
Check out LeBron and Durant's numbers head-to-head with both players on the court in their last 9 matchups including the playoffs. Durant has outscored LeBron, but has fallen short in rebounding and assists, while his Thunder have been outscored by 69 pts in 354 minutes. Source: NBA.com[+]
354 Minutes On Court Together - Previous 2 Seasons (including Playoffs)
Through their first 16 meetings, Kevin Durant and LeBron James have made and attempted almost the exact same number of shots. But James has been far more adept at getting his teammates involved and boasts a 13-3 mark in their 16 head-to-head contests.[+]
According to player efficiency rating, which is a rating of a player's per-minute productivity and is pace adjusted, Durant is having one of the top ten seasons in NBA history. Durant's player efficiency rating of 31.1 would be tied for the 9th-highest mark dating back to the first season PER data was available in 1951-52. The only players to register a PER higher than 31.1 in a single-season were Michael Jordan (3 times), Wilt Chamberlain (3) and LeBron James (2). Durant's not far off from the all-time record of 31.8, set by Chamberlain in 1962-63 .[+]
Highest Player Efficiency Rating Since 1951-52
OKC went just 5-5 after losing Russell Westbrook in late December ... But the Thunder have since reeled off 8-straight victories, the longest active win streak in the NBA.[+]
Thunder Without Russell Westbrook - Since Dec. 27th
"Win Shares per 48 minutes" are an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player per 48 minutes. The league average is approximately 0.10. The Thunder have played 20 games with Durant in the lineup and Westbrook on the bench. OKC has gone 14-6 in those games. While Durant has kept OKC on a winning path, the same can't be said for the other 3 players on the win shares (per 48 minutes) leaderboard. LeBron James and the Heat are just 7-6 this season in games Dwyane Wade has missed. Kevin Love's Timberwolves are just 22-22 this season, currently in 11th place in the Western Conference and 3 games back of the Mavericks for the 8th spot. And the Clippers have a better win percentage without Chris Paul (.769) than they do with him (.647).[+]
Kevin Durant is averaging 36.9 points this month. That would be tied for the 2nd-highest scoring average in the month of January dating back to the ABA-NBA merger in 1976-77. Only Kobe Bryant posted a higher average at 43.4 PPG back in 2006. In case you're wondering --- Wilt Chamberlain holds the all-time mark. He averaged 51.8 points per game in January, 1962.[+]
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