(Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon)
The Miami HEAT fell 112-95 to the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. The loss is Miami's first regular season loss to Oklahoma City since the 2012 season.
Impact Performance of the Night: Kevin Durant has been on a roll for all of January and tonight was no exception. He finished with 33 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the Thunder’s win over the HEAT. Durant hit a number of difficult shots where there was nothing more HEAT defenders can do. His jumper is released from such a high point that LeBron James and Shane Battier’s contests were futile. Durant also was a strong facilitator, attacking the HEAT defense and drawing attention, only to kick it out to an open teammate. In a run that has been unmatched by any player this season, Durant delivered another signature performance.
The Deciding Run: The Thunder went small, matching up with the HEAT, with 7:24 left, the HEAT held a 15-2 lead. Over the next 41 minutes, the Thunder outscored the HEAT 110-76. Any time the HEAT looked to mount a run, the Thunder countered. Big shot after big shot from the Thunder kept the HEAT at arm’s length. Big threes by Kevin Durant and Derek Fisher at the end of the third quarter started what was the final surge from Oklahoma City. Miami was just never able to make things interesting once the Thunder got in their groove.
Play of the Game: Kevin Durant has the ability to hit a jumper over any player. His height and reach gives him a natural advantage that is very difficult to compete with. In the third quarter, the HEAT hit a few jumpers to get the deficit to just 11 points. Miami was playing better defense and it looked like a run might be coming after LeBron James hit a long jumper. Durant had other ideas. He came down the floor and hit a very deep three over James on the right wing. James was in the right position, forced the tough shot, and it didn’t matter. The three pushed the Thunder lead to 14 and the HEAT never got it back to 11 again.
Efficiency Rating: Offensive Efficiency: 102.5; Defensive Efficiency: 120.0
Trend to Watch: Turnover issues have popped up for the HEAT at various points this season and we saw them again tonight. Miami finished with 21 turnovers, tying a season high, that led directly to 25 points. The Thunder tallied 13 steals, which is the third highest total against the HEAT season. Oklahoma City clogged the passing lanes with their length, closing windows of opportunity faster than any opponent in the last few weeks. Thabo Sefolosha got six steals himself, constantly digging at driving HEAT players and poking the ball free. Few teams have the personnel like the Thunder. It’s a unique challenge that the HEAT don’t often face because they’re one of the few teams that can match that athleticism. Miami’s ball security will get better, it always does, but tonight’s performance will stick with the HEAT. The Thunder are a championship contender that that HEAT may very well face in June. They’ll need to be ready for the different looks the Thunder are capable of.
The Takeaway: Games like tonight just happen. The Thunder forced the HEAT into a season high turnover count. The Thunder set their season high in three-point makes with 16, in just 27 tries. All of this happened as the HEAT tied their season low on three-point makes at three. For much of the night, it seemed as though outside forces were working against the HEAT. There are lessons to be learned, of course, but much of what we saw was an aberration. The HEAT need to cut down on turnovers and shoot better from three, but that will happen on it’s own because tonight’s performance was so extreme. The next time they play the Thunder they’ll need to do a better job of defending the three-point line, but that will happen on its own because a shooting night like the Thunder had is very unlikely to be repeated. In this space we’ve talked about games that you just set aside and forget about. This is probably one of those games. There were a lot of extremes on the floor, and when that happens, there isn’t much to take from a game.
Notes: LeBron James finished with 34 points, three rebounds and three assists. Chris Bosh added 18 points and nine rebounds. Dwyane Wade scored 15 points. James Jones and Roger Mason, Jr. were inactive.