While it’s a cold, white Christmas back in Oklahoma City, the Thunder found themselves on the hot end of a loss to the Miami Heat. Miami fought off another late surge by the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-97. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 33 points, Russell Westbrook contributed 21 points and 11 assists for 12th double-double of the season. Thunder fall to 21-6 on the season and 7-4 on the road.
In a game of the top two teams in the league, Oklahoma City didn’t come prepared early on. The Miami Heat jumped out 7-0 on the Thunder before Serge Ibaka put down the dunk off the assist from Russell Westbrook. Miami then pushed the lead out to 15-3 with 7:44 to go in the first quarter. Oklahoma City could have juts rolled over, but they didn’t. They fought back. Oklahoma City used a 10-2 run over the next 3:02 to get back in the game. Miami pushed the lead back out to 10 points once again, but a rally and a technical on Lebron James helped fuel the rally. Oklahoma City closed the quarter on an 8-0 run to cut the lead 27-24.
It was a streaky second quarter for both teams. It just seemed like every time Miami made a run, Oklahoma City had an answer. All was knotted up at 39-39 with 7:33 left in the second quarter. Miami then outscored the Thunder 15-9 the rest of the way. The real turning point was when Kevin Durant picked up his third foul of the first half with 3:17 to go. The Heat then scored four straight points, causing Oklahoma City to burn another time out. Oklahoma City had a chance to cut it down to three, but could not convert on two different occasions. Miami went into the half on the 54-46 advantage.
After a sluggish first possession, Oklahoma City decided to join us in the third quarter. Miami scored the first two points of the quarter, then Oklahoma City went on a 10-0 run to jump out to the 58-56 lead with 7:02 remaining. From then on out, Oklahoma City and the Heat would trade leads eight times, and tie the game seven other times. Miami grabbed the lead late in the quarter, and held as the quarter ended with the Miami Heat leading 74-72. Biggest key in the third quarter was Oklahoma City’s ability to take care of the basketball. They turned the ball over just one time in the quarter after turning it over 10 times in the first half.
Miami seemed able to keep Oklahoma City at bay in the fourth quarter, constantly keeping a two or four point lead. Multiple times Oklahoma City would come back with a flurry of points. Oklahoma City found themselves tied once at 79 each earlr in the fourth quarter, and they were within two points eight times. It just seemed every time that Oklahoma City was in striking distance, they couldn’t convert or a questionable call was made by the officiating.
Durant did his best hero act in the fourth quarter though, he had 14 points, including a dagger in front of James with 18 seconds remaining to cut it to 98-97. Oklahoma City did their best to get a steal, but were unsuccessful. The Thunder fouled Ray Allen who nailed the free throws. Oklahoma City had two shots in the final seconds, but bricked them both. Westbrook had a controversial miss in the final seconds where he thought he was fouled, no call. He slammed his hands on the Press table, and was called for a technical, icing the Heat win.
Keys of the Game
Rotation Defense: B
Oklahoma City did a poor job in the first half. Lots of left open shooters. However, the Heat struggled shooting the three in the first half, that helped immensely. It overshadowed the fact that Oklahoma City was over helping again, and left the Thunder struggling for a defender at a lot during the first half. The Second half was much better. Oklahoma City stayed with their man, and for the most part, helped shut down the Heat. They just hit their shots. Wasn’t a discredit to the defense.
16 turnovers. Embarrassing. The Thunder only turned it over nine times in the final three quarters. However, still came in key moments. Oklahoma city had four turnovers in the final five minutes of the game. Early turnovers by the Thunder put them down 15-3 to start the game. That was again the tone that set for this game. Oklahoma City was forced to play from behind.
The Bench: B
Hard to really judge the bench badly here. Scott Brooks played just three bench players, and Oklahoma City got 24 points out of them. Nick Collison played well when he was in the game, and so did Reggie Jackson. Kevin Martin contributed 15 points. Oklahoma City got what they needed from the bench.
- Terrible start for the Thunder. It looked like a continuation of their struggles against the Heat last year in the Finals. No shots were falling and the defense was lackluster. The Heat was up 13-2 early.
- This isn’t really basketball related, but the Christmas jerseys were pretty snazzy. I liked the blue they used.
- Mario Chalmers was getting too much early, dropping in seven of the first 15 Heat points. He’s not an awful player, but he’s not good enough to score more than his average against us in less than 6 minutes. He finished the first quarter with 12 points. He gave this team some trouble in the Finals last year too. He ended with 20 total points.
- The Thunder left WAY too many open threes. In fact, had Miami shot even a little bit better from downtown this game would have never been close.
- Durant got a rare technical called after complaining about a very questionable offensive foul call. LeBron James received one only a couple minutes later.
- These teams don’t like each other, and I love it. They got into it a few times, especially after a hard foul by Battier on Westbrook in the fourth quarter.
- Reggie Jackson had a phenomenal and one towards the end of the first. He got bumped by Norris Cole and was able to finish with an off balance floater. I think it showed how good he can be.
- Speaking of Jackson, he was getting the minutes over Maynor tonight. It’s too early to tell what that means, but he played pretty well.
- Durant had two fouls in the first quarter, one of which was bogus. Foul trouble isn’t normally an issue for the superstar, but he did have similar problems in the Finals last year. Call it what you want, but most of it is probably the fact that he has to guard LeBron.
- Remember how much Harden struggled against the Heat? Martin didn’t do so bad, though he missed a couple of transition layups.
- I don’t like LeBron, but he’s too good to not deserve everyone’s respect as a player. He also seems to have improved his jump shot, making him even more dangerous.
- The Thunder had a great 10-0 run early on in the third quarter, putting them up 58-56 and forcing a Miami timeout. The run was highlighted by two straight amazing baskets from Durant.
- This game was pretty close throughout, save for Miami’s hot start. I was reminded of most of the Finals games last year. It seems these teams are always going to play each other close.
- Westbrook had another bad shooting night tonight. He’s been able to offset his struggles by helping out in other areas, but it’d be nice to see his shot fall consistently.
- Durant really had his offense going after a slow start. He was hitting everything from threes to floaters.
- I don’t understand the Thunder having Perkins or Ibaka guard LeBron. Neither of them is quick enough. Perkins really doesn’t match up well with this team, and Scott Brooks needs to be okay with sitting him.
- Perkins was actually extra useless this game. His defense was terrible and his offense and rebounding were just as nonexistent as always. Best example was when he left Chris Bosh wide open in a late fourth quarter possession, giving Bosh an easy layup.
- There were some questionable calls this game, but there’s no need to complain with the amount of free throws the Thunder took (38). Without those freebie chances they would’ve lost this game by quite a bit more.