“Perk brings so much to us,” Brooks said. “We won the game and the guys understand that. It’s not about what I did. It’s about how we played as a collective group. We’ve got a bunch of guys that is always about the team. Tonight was a clear and prime example of that.”
The Durant-James matchup lived up to its hype. Durant scored a team-high 33 points with seven rebounds and five assists, pushing his streak of 30-plus-point games to 12 while helping the Thunder snap a six-game losing streak to Miami.
James scored a game-high 34 points with three rebounds and three assists.
The difference was Durant got more help from his supporting cast.
Serge Ibaka scored 22, Jeremy Lamb came off the bench to pour in 18 and Derek Fisher chipped in 15 points. Lamb and Fisher combined for nine of a Thunder record 16 3-pointers made.
It was the ninth straight win for the Thunder.
“It’s a good team win,” Brooks said. “I thought that a lot of guys chipped in.”
The Heat jumped all over the Thunder at the start, erupting out of the gate with a 22-4 run in the fist six minutes. Miami scored on its first 10 possessions and pulverized the Thunder by popping the ball around the perimeter and pumping in shots from all areas of the floor. The Heat made their first nine field goals and assisted each other on seven of those. But perhaps the worst part was James was responsible for only two points and one assists during that dominating stretch. Dwyane Wade, meanwhile, contributed just two as well. It was Chris Bosh who sparked the Heat, scoring nine points during the spurt and scoring on an array of jump shots driving layups and 3-pointers. His free throws with 6:20 remaining in the quarter gave the Heat their 18-point advantage.
OKC showed extraordinary mental toughness, though, hanging in and weathering that early storm. The Thunder responded with a 12-0 run, led by seven points from Durant, to cut it to 22-16 and create some much-needed momentum.
But whatever good that was crafted appeared on its way to crumbling when Durant was whistled for his second foul with 1:32 remaining in the quarter. It forced him to the bench, but for as bad as things were the Thunder trailed by just nine after the opening 12 minutes.
And that’s when the Thunder’s second unit, with its star saddled with foul trouble, stepped up and gave OKC new life. A lineup of Fisher, Lamb, Jones, Nick Collison and Thabo Sefolosha went on a 12-6 run in the first 3:07 and cut Miami’s lead to three. Lamb ignited the rally with back-to-back 3s and capped it with a tip-in in transition.
“Ball movement,” Lamb explained of the second unit’s offensive surge. “We really passed the ball and had a lot of open shots. I think that was huge. When you pass the ball like that, that’s what a shooter loves.”
After Durant, Ibaka and Reggie Jackson returned, the Thunder tied the game at 46-all on another Lamb 3-pointer with 4:11 left in the first half. Following a layup by James, Durant drilled another 3-pointer on the Thunder’s next possession, and OKC never looked back.
The Thunder closed the second quarter on a 9-4 run and took an improbable 55-50 lead at halftime.
That’s when the lineup shuffle flipped things and, more importantly, put the Heat on notice.
Durant has developed enough to top James, and the Thunder’s small lineup can now run circles around the Heat.
It’s a new day.