The Thunder beat Miami 112-95 on Wednesday night. Here are five quick observations:
1. Impressive win…to say the least. Without its All-Star point guard, the Thunder walloped a fully healthy Heat team by 17 on its home court. It was Miami’s worst home loss in more than a year. Just one game. But a definite midseason statement. OKC has now won nine in a row, hold an NBA-best 37-10 record and will make the league’s most influential acquisition (Russell Westbrook) in the next month. Good times in OKC.
2. Great adjustment – Against Miami, Kendrick Perkins doesn’t fit. Not breaking any news here. It’s been plainly evident the last six times the Heat beat OKC and it was clear in the early going Wednesday night. OKC fell in a 22-4 hole with Perkins on the court. But then Scott Brooks made one of the best coaching adjustments of his career. And it was a promising one, should these two meet down the road. He sat Perkins for the rest of the game. And from that point on, playing small ball with Perry Jones and a select group of other subs, the Thunder outscored Miami 108-73. That’s a whooping. And it can be directly traced back to that move.
3. MVP matchup - Kevin Durant continued his torrid January, finishing with 33 points, seven rebounds and five assists on 12-of-23 shooting. He was a +18 in 40 minutes and he was the best player on the floor. But LeBron was nearly as good, scoring 34 points on 12-of-20 shooting. Difference was, Durant got far better help from his supporting cast, a trend that had been reversed the past six times they’ve met. I’m not ready to have a ‘best player in the world’ debate, but it’s looking more and more like we’re heading that way come June. A Finals showdown between these two would be legendary.
KD the playmaker
4. Three-point shooting - When Thunder fans judge this game from a ‘How excited should I get?’ perspective, there’s one thing you need to take into account: 3-point shooting. The Thunder is in the bottom half of the league when it comes to 3-point percentage. They take 20.2 per game and make only 7.2. But on Wednesday, OKC exploded for 16 threes on 27 attempts, a ridiculous clip. Derek Fisher went 5-of-5. Jeremy Lamb went 4-of-6. That’s great, and a little payback for Mike Miller’s Game 5 explosion a couple seasons ago. But it’s not sustainable. That’s not always going to happen. Heck, those exact numbers will probably never happen again. And you couple that with the Heat, the seventh best 3-point shooting team in the NBA, going 3-of-19 from deep and the scoreboard starts to make more sense. Just take a look at these two long bombs by Fisher:
5. Secondary players - Since the Heat dispatched OKC in the 2012 Finals, Kevin Durant has commonly said the biggest thing he learned from that series was how much the fringe players matter. The Mike Millers, the Shane Battiers, the Mario Chalmers. Role players who come up big in huge moments. They can change games and turn series. And, as shown tonight, I think the Thunder is in a better spot than they’ve ever been. Jeremy Lamb was fantastic on Wednesday (18 points on 7-of-10 shooting), Thabo Sefolosha had two more steals (6) than the Heat’s entire team (4) and Perry Jones showed how useful he can be against a team like Miami, defending LeBron and disrupting Miami’s flow (PJ3 was a +12 in 30 minutes).
-Big win. Needed win.
-Up next: at Brooklyn on Friday
-I’ll leave you with this, a celebratory Russell Westbrook head rub for KD: