The stage was set for a special start to the second half in Oklahoma City.
Russell Westbrook was back, the Thunder crowd was amped, Kevin Durant remained in the midst of his best season and the defending champs were in town to witness this buzzsaw first hand.
But LeBron James and the Heat had other plans.
And like a flashback to June 2012, they spoiled the night, throttling the Thunder for a dominant 103-81 victory.
In a battle pitting arguably the NBA’s two best teams and definitely its two premier talents, James stole the show.
He staggered the Thunder early, scoring the Heat’s first 12 points on a trio of long-range jumpers, a powerful post-up, a fastbreak dunk and a thunderous slam.
It staked the Heat to a 12-6 lead, which ballooned to 34-17 by the end the first quarter.
Late in the first half, the Thunder counterpunched. Westbrook, looking rusty at times in his first game back from knee surgery, scored 10 points in the final 1:54 before the break.
It gave Westbrook and OKC a needed spark, bringing them within seven, a deficit the Thunder would cut to five at one point in the third.
But James got hot again, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh chipped in, and the Heat cruised for the final 17 minutes. Miami won by 22 points, the Thunder’s worst home loss since April 2009, its inaugural season in OKC.
“Just tough,” Durant said. “They were moving that basketball really quick, guys hitting shots for them, opened up the lead and it’s tough to fight uphill against a team like that.”
Miami started the game 13-of-14 from the field and didn’t cool off much from there. The Heat’s Big Three — James, Wade and Bosh — combined to shoot 30-of-48 for 81 points, equal to the Thunder’s entire point total.
And while some of the makes came on tough, contested jumpers, a hefty portion came off sloppy Thunder mistakes.
OKC had 19 turnovers, leading to 29 Heat points.
“We turned the ball over, gave them so many easy points,” Durant said. “LeBron himself had like 10 easy points in transition. You can’t give a team like that easy points.”
Despite the loss, OKC is a conference-best 43-13 on the season, with a favorable five-game home stretch coming up.
“We just got to move past it, get better from it and get ready for the next one,” Durant said.
The next one comes Sunday against the Clippers. It’s a noon tip on ABC, with Westbrook expected to play and the crowd likely to be amped up again.
But Thunder fans can only hope their Sunday brunch will go a lot better than their Thursday night.