At the midpoint of the fourth quarter in Miami's highly anticipated rematch with the Oklahoma City Thunder, LeBron James drove right past Serge Ibaka into the lane, rose up for a dunk, got hit straight on the nose and nonetheless focused for a vicious one-handed slam. After James landed on the ground, he bled profusely from his nose and had to be helped off the court.
It didn't matter. The game was already over at that point.
The Heat led for virtually the entire game in a very impressive 103-81 win over Oklahoma City. Miami moved to within a game-and-a-half of the Indiana Pacers for the top seed in the East and finished its six game road trip with a 5-1 record. All of the Heat's wins came against Western Conference playoff opponents.
Miami put together one of its better games this season, dominating multiple extended stretches. James scored 16 of his 33 points in the first quarter, scoring Miami's first 10 points. The Heat put on a show in the first quarter, dicing up the Thunder defense for several dunks and build a 30-13 lead. Kevin Durant, by contrast, didn't even attempt a shot in the first six minutes and only had two points after the first. James shot 15-of-22 from the field and grabbed seven boards. His full repertoire was on display from mid-air adjustments to jumpers. The only blemish for James? His eight turnovers, although the Thunder turned the ball over 20 times.
Unlike the first meeting of the two 2012 Finals teams, the Heat didn't relent after the first period. Miami responded to every Thunder run, quickly getting leads back to double-digit territory. It was especially comforting to see the Heat grow an 11-point lead to 19 to start the fourth quarter without James. Dwyane Wade found three open shooters to all but put the game out of reach.
Wade played a fantastic game to complement James. The 2006 NBA Finals MVP showed some brilliance from his earlier years, as he took on two defenders in one third-quarter fast break and converted on a reverse layup. Wade finished with 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field, 10 assists, seven rebounds and three steals. Although Wade was explosive, he exploited his match-ups against Jeremy Lamb and Derek Fisher using some of old tools -- the post-up game, the hesitation dribble. Miami's defense did an excellent job keying in on Kevin Durant, sending immediate help after he took his man off the dribble. Very often it was Wade who served as another defender.
Bosh also put together a very efficient game, scoring 24 points and going 11-of-12 from the foul line and grabbing eight rebounds. (As an aside, the Heat won the rebounding battle 41-38 tonight. But having seen Miami the last couple seasons, did it really matter? The Thunder simply didn't shoot as well as the Heat did.) Bosh had his patented jumper going, and he easily baited Ibaka into fouls with pump-fakes. Miami again went to the Bosh/Chris Andersen tandem frequently -- even though Kendrick Perkins played a total of seven minutes -- and it worked well. Andersen grabbed eight boards and had an amazing block on a Reggie Jackson dunk attempt.
The Heat will return home for a Sunday matinee meeting with the Chicago Bulls.