Miami Delivers A Lump Of Coal To Thunder On Christmas
MIAMI, Florida - Oklahoma City's special holiday jerseys weren't the only thing blue about this Christmas for the Thunder.
Careless turnovers, spotty shooting, questionable matchups and some eyebrow-raising officiating ultimately led to the Thunder's second-consecutive loss on Tuesday. OKC fell 103-97 to the Miami Heat in a much-anticipated NBA Finals rematch in front of a national audience.
And the way this game played out doesn't exactly set up for the teams exchanging boxes of chocolates before their Valentine's Day showdown in Oklahoma City.
This was a hard-fought affair between two teams who flat-out don't like one another. It showed with five technical fouls overall and a flagrant one on Miami's Shane Battier. It was a physical battle, not unlike June's Finals pairing. But unfortunately for the Thunder, this game had a similar result as the Heat took its fifth-straight victory against OKC.
Sure, this was just a regular season game but for a lot of Thunder fans this brought back a lot of bad memories from this past summer.
The Thunder had a chance to tie when Kevin Durant launched a tightly-guarded 3-point attempt over LeBron James' outstretched arm, which clanged off the back of the iron with 9.2 seconds remaining. Kendrick Perkins fought to tip the loose ball out to Russell Westbrook, who snagged the ball and fired up a set shot that also rimmed out as he went crashing to the floor after it appeared Dwayne Wade had fouled him. Only the whistle wasn't blown, sending Perkins and Westbrook into a fit of rage, resulting in a technical foul against Westbrook.
There is a certainly a chance Westbrook and Perkins were correct in their argument but that shot alone wasn't what would have decided this game.
Oklahoma City had plenty of chances but were haunted by porous shooting (30-for-71, 5-of-16 from 3), 16 turnovers and a few uncharacteristic mental lapses on the defensive end.
It was evident the Thunder was pressing in this game from the start. OKC had a wild, uncontrolled start, leading to an early 15-3 deficit in the game's opening minutes.
The Thunder, as it tends to do, clawed back into the game and got Durant rolling in the second half after he struggled in the first two quarters. Durant led all scorers with 33 points on 11-of-21 shooting and 9-of-11 from the foul line.
Outside of Durant, the Thunder played rather poorly overall and still had an opportunity to tie in the final seconds.
Westbrook finished with 21 points and a game-high 11 rebounds but struggled from the floor on 5-of-19 shooting. Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin scored 15 each as the only other Thunder players in double figures.
James had an outstanding performance for the Heat with 29 points on 12-of-20 shooting to go with nine assists and eight rebounds. He proved to be a matchup nightmare for OKC, as Thunder coach Scott Brooks through numerous defensive looks at the reigning MVP to no avail.
Wade had 21 points and Chris Bosh added 16 and six rebounds. A thorn in the Thunder's side all night was point guard Mario Chalmers, who scored a season-high 20 points and connected on four timely 3-pointers.
Miami (19-6) also went a perfect 19-for-19 from the free-throw line for the second best outing in franchise history. The Heat outscored the Thunder by 14 in the paint despite being outrebounded 39-to-34.
Oklahoma City (21-6) will return home with hopes of getting back in the win column against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Chesapeake Energy Arena.