Heat 108, Thunder 103
News, notes and observations from Sunday’s loss to Miami
- Rebounding. Rebounding. Rebounding. Got to close out possessions. The Thunder didn’t in the fourth quarter and it cost them the game.
- Because of that, it’s safe to say this is a game the Thunder should have won. It almost felt like watching the Heat do to the Thunder what the Thunder has done to about 17 other teams this season. The Thunder essentially found a way to lose this one by not corralling a rebound.
- Miami had eight offensive boards in the fourth quarter. It led to 15 second-chance points. The Heat had 18 total rebounds in the final period. That’s more than they had in the entire first half.
- What might have gotten lost in the battle for rebounds is how the offense bogged down again in the fourth quarter. The Thunder stopped running plays, stopped sharing the ball and stopping searching for quality shots. And it led to a 5-for-19 period.
- LeBron James just passed Derrick Rose in my eyes for MVP. But not by much. James is doing some incredible things for Miami. But because he plays alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, people automatically write him off. But the way he played point guard today, orchestrating the Heat’s offense and getting everyone involved was a thing of beauty. And then he threatened to take over the game with his scoring.
- I was impressed with how Kevin Durant competed against not just James but the entire Heat team. He didn’t back down from Bosh. He battled for rebounds. He was locked in defensively (save a few possessions). And he came out in attack mode offensively. Durant might have gone 2-for-10 in the second half, but I thought tonight was a big step forward in his evolution as a player. He hasn’t had much success on the big stage. But he was clearly ready to accept the challenge tonight. Could be a sign of things to come as we march toward April.
- Neither team played good defense in the first half. Some of it was great offense, though. But the two teams combined to make 20 of their first 27 shots. Miami led 64-61 at halftime. The Heat was shooting 62 percent. The Thunder was shooting 52 percent.
- Wade was ridiculous at times. His ability to hit difficult shots is something I don’t hear talked about much. He tossed in some high-arching layups in traffic with his left hand, and his baseline fadeaway is just nasty. When he has it going like he did today, there isn’t much anyone can do about it.
- James Harden looked much better in his second start in as many games. He got off to a slow start. Wade beat him backdoor in the opening seconds and scored on a feed by James. Bosh posted up Harden and scored. Wade blew by Harden but missed a layup. Then Harden didn’t get back as Wade leaked out and scored on a wide open dunk. Somehow, after all of that, Harden settled in. He drew a charge on LeBron. He hit a 3. And he forced a few turnovers, most notably hounding Mike Miller into dribbling off his foot and out of bounds as he brought the ball up once in the second quarter.
- Thunder coach Scott Brooks chose to go with Daequan Cook over Harden for offensive purposes. Cook made three 3s again today. But his defensive rebound with 40.5 seconds left that led to Durant’s jumper and a one-point lead was huge.
- Cook’s confidence is incredible. And I have a hard time understanding how he maintains such a high amount. The guy doesn’t play for much of the first half of the season but is ready at a moment’s notice. And he’s anything but gun shy. He took a 28-footer in the first half with six seconds still on the shot clock. Brooks will never have to beg him to shoot.
- Here’s what Brooks said about going with Cook over Harden in the fourth: “I thought Daequan was really good tonight. Everybody gets their opportunities. But I thought he was good. James was good defensively. But I thought offensively Daequan had a good rhythm. He was making 3s for us, and that spacing is important.”
- One last thing on Cook. I love how he fouls. You’re not getting and and one against him. He wraps up and makes sure you’re not getting off a shot. He did a great job of it against Wade and James in the first half. Nick Collison and Eric Maynor are really the only other two on the team that does it so effectively.
- At several points throughout the game, it looked like the Heat were just a souped-up streetball team. Miami makes everything a fast break, or at least tries, and more often than not it succeeds.
- The Heat’s ball movement is outstanding at times, too. There was a possession late in the second quarter when Miami worked the ball around and around until getting the exact shot it wanted — a James Jones 3-pointer from the right corner.
- Serge Ibaka again played limited minutes. Brooks explanation: “Serge has to get into the game early. He had an opportunity and I don’t think he was ready. And I thought Nick was better tonight. Also, they had LeBron at the 4. I don’t think Serge is a good matchup against LeBron. But Serge, like all the other guys, has to go into the game and play minutes hard.”
- You’ll love this response from Durant when he was asked about how the respective “big threes” fared. “We don’t look at it as the big three,” Durant said. “They may look at it like that over there. But here, we’re a whole group.”
- Jeff Green played his tail off, especially in the first half. He was aggressive against Bosh and was a big help on the boards.
- Russell Westbrook flirted with another triple-double, finishing three rebounds shy. But I was anything but impressed with his play from the first quarter on. He had a nice stretch in the third, but he forced things entirely too much tonight.
- Is Eric Maynor becoming irrelevant? It’s something I’ve thought for a few weeks now. But with Westbrook’s emergence, it seems the Thunder has no real place for Maynor. I understand the need for a steady backup point guard. But Maynor, in my eyes, is more than just a steady reserve who warrants only 10-12 minutes. There are plenty of guys out there who fit that bill. Maynor isn’t one of them. Should the Thunder address this?
- The Thunder scored 34 points off 20 Miami turnovers. Based on that stat alone, if I didn’t watch this game I would have told you the Thunder won.
- Joel Anthony was a quiet difference-maker for the Heat. He was swatting shots left and right in the second half and helping to preserve Miami’s lead.
- LeBron’s blocks on Durant and Westbrook were equally jaw-dropping. You could see both coming.
- The Thunder’s season-high six game home winning streak is over. OKC is now 30-17 and 17-6 in games decided by six points or less.
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