Basketball / Sports

Miami Heat's LeBron James gets fouled as he goes to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant during the first quarter at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. (Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/MCT)

Heat falls to Thunder; Durant scores 33 points; LeBron has 34

MIAMI -- Kevin Durant and LeBron James did not disappoint.

They also canceled each other out.

Considering the Oklahoma City Thunder remained without Russell Westbrook and considering Dwyane Wade was back in the Miami Heat's starting lineup, that should have favored the Heat.

For 6 minutes, 20 seconds it did on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, as the Heat pushed to an 18-point lead at the outset.

After that? Not so much, as the Thunder soon found their rhythm on the way to a 112-95 victory.

"There's no running away from it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Other than the first eight minutes of the game, they outclassed us tonight."

From Durant there were 33 points on 12-of-23 shooting, continuing the sizzling pace he brought into the night, now with 12 consecutive 30-point games. James countered with 34 points on 12-of-20 shooting, the two spending much of the night matched up against each other, consistently counter-punching.

But once the Thunder found their composure, the Heat lost theirs, staggered for most of the final three periods, unable to regain their stance.

"We did not help ourselves," Spoelstra said. "We've taken care of the ball better in years past."

And that was that, the Heat closing with 21 turnovers that led to 25 Oklahoma City points.

"Our offense got us in trouble quite a bit tonight," Spoelstra said.

All the while, the Thunder shot 16 of 27 on 3-pointers, the most 3-pointers they have made in a game since relocated from Seattle.

"There was a lot of different issues," Spoelstra said. "One, they shot the heck out of it."

While center Chris Bosh added 18 points and nine rebounds for the Heat and Wade 15 points, there was a far greater depth of contributions from Durant's Westbrook-less supporting cast, from Serge Ibaka to Jeremy Lamb to Derek Fisher, who shot 5 of 5 on 3-pointers. No Heat player beyond James, Bosh and Wade scored more than Chris Andersen's eight points.

After falling behind 16 in the third quarter, the Heat closed within 78-68 on consecutive baskets by James, before Durant responded with a 3-pointer for a 13-point Thunder lead.

The two went back and forth from there, each scoring 12 in the third. The problem for the Heat was there was little in support, with the Thunder taking a 91-75 lead into the fourth after Fisher banked in a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks made the move at the start of the second half that he wouldn't make in the 2012 NBA Finals, removing center Kendrick Perkins from the starting lineup. In that 2012 series, the Heat went small against Perkins and took the series 4-1 for the first of consecutive championships.

By opening the second half with Perry Jones III in place of Perkins, the Thunder pushed their lead to 16 in the third period, all the while as de-facto Heat power forward Shane Battier found himself in foul trouble and then on the bench.

The Thunder led 55-50 at halftime, which was not the way it set up early, when the Heat pushed to a 22-4 lead.

But after that 9-of-11 start, the Heat cooled and the Thunder began to sizzle, with Oklahoma City closing within 30-21 by the end of the first quarter.

Although both started quietly, Durant had 15 points by the intermission and James 13.

The biggest problem for the Heat early was turnovers, with 11 at the break that led to 19 Thunder points. Oklahoma City, by contrast, have five over the opening two periods.

Wade was back in the Heat's starting lineup after playing Sunday's victory over the visiting San Antonio Spurs off the bench, after missing the preceding four games to rest his sore knees.

The Thunder bench was invaluable early, with 23 first-half points, including 13 by Lamb.

The Thunder remained without Westbrook, who is recovering from his latest knee setback. For the Heat, forward James Jones and guard Roger Mason were inactive.

The game concluded a four-game homestand for the Heat, with a road game against the New York Knicks up next Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, just across the river from Sunday's Super Bowl.

The Heat then return for a Monday home game against the Detroit Pistons, before six consecutive Western Conference road games, broken up by the All-Star break. The Heat play at Oklahoma City to close that trip.

Going in, Spoelstra said of Durant, "He has a full tool kit at his disposal." He displayed most of them.

Durant entered averaging 29.3 against the Heat, the highest career average of a Heat opponent not named Michael Jordan.

And it's not as if the Heat did not recognize the moment.

"This is as close as you get to playoff games during the year," he said going in. "These are the games players love to play in."

(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services




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