Let's Go Pacers.
That familiar rally cry returned to the Oklahoma City chorus Thursday night after the Heat reminded the Thunder and America who wears the pants in this rivalry.
The Heat beat the Thunder 103-81 with a thorough beatdown that wiped out all the momentum created by the Thunder's blowout victory in Miami three weeks ago.
“We owed 'em,” said the Heat's Chris Bosh.
The Kevin Durant/LeBron James showdown. Russell Westbrook's return. Kendrick Perkins' presence in the starting lineup. All were reduced to secondary status Thursday night by the Heat's emphatic statement.
“They smacked us pretty good, man,” Bosh said of the Thunder's 112-95 rout on Jan. 29, achieved without Westbrook. “They beat us. It's not too often we get beat, dominated like they dominated. That leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”
Bosh said the victory vindicated the Heat “a little bit.” He put his hands together. “We're even. We're back up to here now.”
Even? This series? Until three weeks ago, Miami had won six straight against the Thunder, including the final four games of the 2012 NBA Finals. Miami seemed a horrid matchup for the Thunder, whose best bet for an NBA championship was to meet the Indiana Pacers in the Finals.
Now, after this undressing, the Thunder is back to flying the Indiana flag.
This game was not complicated. Miami played ferocious defense, the Thunder absolutely did not.
With LeBron and Shane Battier dogging Durant into an off night, and Westbrook struggling to find rhythm and timing in his first game since Christmas, the Thunder had trouble finding good shots.
The Thunder's points early came via offensive rebounds and fast breaks. The Thunder's set-up offense was stuck in quicksand.
Worse yet, the Thunder's offensive ineptitude fueled Miami's offense, with a variety of breakaways.
The Heat made 13 of its first 14 shots and finished 41 of 75 from the field, 54.7 percent. And it wasn't like Miami was hot, sinking silky jumpers. The Heat consistently got easy shots.
Any LeBron shot can be classified as easy, and he scored the Heat's first 12 points.
But in the first quarter alone, Miami had four dunks and three uncontested layups, plus five other baskets in the lane. For the game, the Heat total was seven dunks, six uncontested layups and six field goals on other drives to the basket.
“We were really active on the defensive end,” Battier said. “When we're active and creating turnovers and getting in the passing lanes, that's our bread and butter. The energy we brought in the first quarter was tremendous.”
And suddenly the Heat again looks like the NBA's elite. Oklahoma City was the final stop of a six-game road trip, with the All-Star break in the middle. The Heat went 5-1 on the trip, with all five wins over playoff-caliber teams.
So the Thunder is back to where it was. Trying to figure out how to match Miami.
Not even reduced minutes for Perkins worked this time. The Thunder trailed 18-8 when Perk was removed with 6:18 left in the first quarter, and he played just 1:49 the rest of the game. But the early hole wasn't really a product of a big lineup trying to counter Miami's small ball.
Westbrook's rustiness helped lead to seven turnovers in the first six minutes. Westbrook will find his groove soon enough; that's no big worry.
But slowing LeBron, making Dwyane Wade (24 points, 10 assists) look old, finding Durant relief from the LeBron/Battier tag-team that led to the NBA's leading scorer making just six of 17 shots through three quarters?
Those are perpetual Thunder problems against Miami.
“It's obvious, I don't think we played well,” said Scotty Brooks. “Offensively, we were out of sync, turned the ball over too many times ... we didn't have the good rhythm going into this game.”
You never want to fret too much over one NBA game. But you also never want to celebrate too much over the same.
The Thunder made up ground down in Miami. Then Thursday night, the Heat restaked its dominance, again turning all of Thunderland into Pacer fans.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.