“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.