LeBron James shoots over the outstretched arm of Kevin Durant. - Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The Heat played a superb first quarter, building a lead that crested at 23 points en route to a 110-100 win over its 2012 NBA Finals opponent. LeBron James and Chris Bosh stood out as the principal stars tonight for the Heat.
The Oklahoma City Thunder lost five straight games to the Miami Heat coming into the two teams' final meeting of the season Feb. 14. One would think that the Thunder players would come out with aggression against their opponent in the 2012 NBA Finals. But Miami was the team that looked sharp early, jumping out to a 32-17 lead after the first quarter. The Heat played exceptionally well through three quarters, building a 23-point lead and never letting the Thunder make a sustained run. Although Kevin Durant got hot in the final frame, Miami's lead ultimately turned out to be insurmountable. The Heat held on for a 110-100 win, propelling the team to its seventh straight win.
LeBron James scored 39 points on 14-of-24 shooting from the field -- an off night for him, considering he only shot 58.3 percent from the field. James also grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out seven assists, playing utterly spectacularly throughout. The three-time MVP was somewhat quiet until he made four straight jumpers to close the second quarter, the last one a 3 in Kendrick Perkins' face. He toyed with whomever guarded him, and connected an alley-oop slam with 88 seconds left, putting Miami up 12 and icing the game.
People will dissect the James/Durant matchup -- the former Texas standout scored 40 points, making all 15 of his foul shots -- but this game contained more. Chris Bosh's superb 20-point, 12-rebound effort may get overlooked in the media, but his hot shooting helped Miami get off to that big lead in the first quarter. He even made a twisting reverse layup in transition early in the contest. Five of Bosh's boards came on the offensive side of the floor, giving Miami second-chance opportunities. Although Ibaka has gotten better this year, he was no match for Bosh.
Miami led wire-to-wire, so the game won't have much bearing if these teams meeting again in the Finals. Dwyane Wade and Durant both fouled out, and Wade even spent considerable time guarding the lanky 6-foot-10 forward. Wade didn't shoot the ball well, but did dish out eight assists. After fouling out, Wade briefly went into the tunnel before returning to the bench in an apparent attempt to calm down. The Thunder took 34 free throws compared to Miami's 22, and Oklahoma City needed every one of those generous calls to even have a prayer.
Norris Cole and Ray Allen both contributed offensively, and Cole ended the first quarter with a buzzer-beating coast-to-coast layup. The Thunder shot just 43 percent from the game and made just three triples while Miami made 11 shots from beyond the arc. This game isn't representative of the Thunder, but the Heat played great basketball and earned a quality win. Miami can now head into the All-Star break with a lot of momentum.