Heat 98, Thunder 93
Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday’s loss at Miami.
- LeBron James just got my MVP vote. Kevin Durant is second. It’s not just about tonight, although it certainly played a part. But the guy has been phenomenal. He hit a rough stretch recently but so does everybody. What he did tonight — after rolling his ankle early in the first quarter, mind you — is what MVPs do. He put his team on his back, did everything he had to do, when he had to do it, and turned his mediocre performance ten days earlier in Oklahoma City into a distant memory.
- Not to mention James’ defense on Durant. Sure, KD had a team-high 30 on a pretty efficient 11-of-21 shooting, but it was the most difficult and uncomfortable 30-point performance I’ve ever seen Durant have. There were times when Durant couldn’t get open, couldn’t post-up, couldn’t seal for an entry pass and couldn’t even put the ball on the floor and go into a move because James was so airtight. Largely because of James, Durant finished with a career-high nine turnovers and never really got into a rhythm as crazy as that sounds after a 30-point night.
- James has replaced Kobe Bryant as the star who gets the most phantom calls from the refs. Period.
- Durant had nine turnovers. The rest of the team had 11.
- Said KD of his turnovers: “A few of them, I threw a soft pass. I should have been stronger with the pass. And a few of them just didn’t go my way.”
- In fairness to Durant, a few of his turnovers should have been on Serge Ibaka and Nazr Mohammed for failing to catch passes.
- Way too many mental lapses in this game for the Thunder. It started on the opening possession, when Russell Westbrook went over a screen to chase Mario Chalmers and there was no help in sight to prevent Chalmers from knocking down a wide open jumper. Thabo Sefolosha got called for a five-second violation while trying to inbound the ball. And the Thunder let James and Dwyane Wade leak out far too easily throughout the night. Those types of errors weren’t seen 10 days ago in OKC.
- Amazingly, the Thunder held the Heat to 37 percent shooting and still couldn’t come out with a win. The reason: Miami’s 3-point shooting (10 of 24) and the Heat’s foul shooting (26 of 29).
- A lot of hostility in this one. Kendrick Perkins delivered a hard foul on Wade. Westbrook delivered a hard foul on LeBron. Durant was jawing with Udonis Haslem and Juwan Howard on the bench for stretches. If this is indeed the Finals matchup we get then it’ll be an intense one.
- Perkins got whistled for a technical foul for his foul on Wade. It was his 12th of the season. That means he’s suspended one game with one more if this one doesn’t get rescinded.
- Westbrook felt the wrath of Heat fans for his foul on LeBron. From that point on, the crowd erupted in impromptu chants of “Westbrook sucks.” The first time the crowd did, Westbrook actually nodded his head to the rhythm of the chant.
- The Thunder ran a lot of offense through James Harden tonight. Maybe they should have done it even more.
- Again, OKC played some great defense throughout the night with the exception of a few of those lapses. The start of the fourth quarter was about as impressive as it got. The Thunder forced Miami into 0-for-8 shooting and a turnover over the first 3 1/2 minutes.
- The top seed in the West and home-court advantage through the West Finals is slipping from the Thunder. San Antonio won tonight and is now just a game back. Fortunately for the Thunder, the Spurs, or should I say San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, doesn’t really care about home-court advantage.
- This is just the second losing streak for the Thunder this year. The first one was Jan. 6 and 7. OKC is now 11-2 after a loss.
- Shane Battier made three shots tonight. And his last two were huge. Both were corner 3s set up by James. And both came as a result of Harden sinking in too deep in help defense. Those back-to-back shots turned an 83-82 Thunder lead into an 88-83 Heat advantage.
- The mood in the Thunder locker room after the game was sullen. It was clear that this was a big game and that everyone wanted it pretty badly. Most of the players said all the right things, but you could see in their body language that this one hurt.
- Up next. At Indiana on Friday.
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