Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat: Postgame Grades and Analysis
Let's all take a moment and thank Santa Claus for the amazing Christmas gift we all got in the Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder thriller.
Led by LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the Heat and Thunder went back and forth throughout the night, with the Heat ultimately ending on top, 103-97. The main difference between LeBron and Durant's performance was consistency, however, as Durant missed a good chunk of the first half due to foul trouble.
LeBron, on the other hand, was as consistent as ever. He ended the night with 29 points, nine assists, eight rebounds, two steals and one block, all while shooting 60 percent from the floor. Durant wasn't far behind LeBron, dropping 33 points on 52.3 percent shooting.
The real difference-maker in this one, though, was Mario Chalmers, who, for the first time this year, put together an efficient and productive performance with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
While the Thunder have a better record, it's clear that the Heat are still the top team in the NBA. With LeBron playing like the league's MVP, it's clear that the Heat are going to be very hard to beat. Throw in some solid production from Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Chalmers and you've got a very dangerous team.
When the Heat are playing complete basketball they are next-to-impossible to top, and so are the Thunder. Another Christmas day, and another memorable Christmas day NBA matchup featuring two of the best teams in the game.
Russell Westbrook, PG OKC: C
Another day, another inconsistent Russell Westbrook.
In the first half, Westbrook was all over the place. He missed numerous open shots and jacked up numerous questionable ones.
Ending the game with 21 points and 11 rebounds, Westbrook certainly had an impact on the game. But he didn't turn up the heat until the second half.
Once he turned up the heat, though, he was still scoring at quite an inefficient clip—ending the night with an abysmal 5-of-19 (26.3 percent) shooting performance from the floor.
Westbrook could've made up for his inconsistent performance had he knocked down his open look at a potential game-tying three pointer with seconds left on the clock. Unfortunately, it clanked off the rim and the Thunder fell.
Mario Chalmers, PG MIA: A-
LeBron James and company are thinking to themselves, "Where's this version of Mario Chalmers been all year?"
If 'Rio played like this all year long the Heat may've not lost a game yet. OK, that may be a stretch, but Chalmers was productive and efficient, which is a rarity.
He scored one less point than his Westbrook did, but Chalmers scored 20 on 57.1 percent shooting, which isn't too common for the young point guard.
Chalmers knocked down big shots in the fourth quarter, ultimately shooting 4-of-8 from beyond the arc, which was a real difference-maker.
Thabo Sefolosha, SG OKC: F
If Thabo Sefolosha hadn't played any minutes in the first half, the Thunder could've ended the first half on top in this matchup.
Sefolosha finished the half playing 21 of the 24 minutes and accounted for zero points, two personal fouls, two steals and two rebounds.
His defense on Wade was above average, but that didn't matter because he nullified his impact with an abysmal offensive performance.
The real issue with Sefolosha's performance was his help-side and switch-off defense on LeBron, who absolutely abused him all not long when given the chance.
Sefolosha ended the night with zero points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals. His lack of production hurt the Thunder, and if they are going to be a top contender again, they are going to need much more out of him.
Dwyane Wade, SG MIA: B-
Let's be honest, Dwyane Wade could've won his matchup with his eyes closed. Sefolosha was really a non-factor for the Thunder, and he was overwhelmed by Wade from the tip.
With 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting, Wade was the Heat's go-to-option after LeBron throughout the game and in the clutch. Wade may not be as athletic as he once was, but he sure knows how to get open looks at the basket and get into the paint.
On the defensive side of the ball, Wade was also a solid force, pressuring both Kevin Martin and Sefolosha on a very consistent basis.
With consistent production throughout the night, it helped keep the Thunder defense from being able to key in on LeBron, which opened up the floor.
Kevin Durant, SF OKC: A
Foul trouble was the name of the game for Kevin Durant in the first half of the game.
His three personal fouls limited his time on the court to just 13 minutes before half, and also limited his production to just eight points, while committing four turnovers.
Luckily for the Thunder, Durant turned the afterburners on in the second half. He ended the game with 33 points on 11-of-21 shooting. and without Durant's consistent production in the second half, the Thunder wouldn't have been in this one late.
The usually clutch Durant, unfortunately, missed his final shot, with the game on the line. To be fair, it wasn't really an open shot, as it was perfectly defended by LeBron.
If it wasn't for Durant's early foul trouble, this one could've had a different end result, and Durant could've ended the night with 40-plus points. It's safe to say that after this tough loss, Durant has a lot on his mind.
LeBron James, SF MIA: A+
Holy LeBron James Batman! LeBron deserves to win this matchup with his nasty put-back dunk alone. As usual, LeBron went off, scoring 19 points and grabbing six rebounds in the first half alone. And his defense on Kevin Durant throughout the game was a real difference-maker.
Considering his first-half production, his final stat line of 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds might seem somewhat underwhelming. But he did what he needed to do to help his team win, and that's what is most important.
The two minutes he was on the bench to start the fourth quarter, he didn't seem too happy at the lackluster defense on Durant. That shows just how much LeBron wanted to win this one, even though its significance this early on in the season is questionable.
LeBron's defense on Durant on the last possession of the game was absolutely perfect, and it's why this Christmas-day matchup didn't go into overtime.
It's clear that LeBron still has a step up on his training partner Durant, and that might not change for quite some time.
Serge Ibaka, PF OKC: B-
Everyone in a Thunder jersey got outplayed by Serge Ibaka in the first half of the contest, and that's not a good thing.
He ended the first half with 11 points and he made it hard for everyone not named LeBron or Chalmers to get into the paint and hit easy shots.
Unfortunately, after his 11 first-half points, Ibaka only added four in the second half, ending the night with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
Considering the talent he was going up against, it's somewhat shocking that Ibaka didn't have a better performance.
With Kendrick Perkins doing almost nothing, it was up to Ibaka to bolster the Thunder frontcourt, and while he did that, he didn't do it enough to help the Thunder win.
Udonis Haslem, PF MIA: D
There wasn't much for Udonis Haslem to do against the Thunder, and he didn't account for many statistics at all, but that doesn't mean he didn't have an impact on the game.
His tenacity on defense set the tone for the Heat early on and it carried on throughout the game. Haslem ended the night with two points on 1-of-2 shooting, and while that wasn't significant, the Heat didn't expect much out of him going into this one.
As usual, Haslem meant more to the Heat in an emotional sense than he did with the actual production he brought to the court.
THe Heat were able to beat the Thunder without significant frontcourt production, but that isn't going to be the case against all teams they go up against. That's something they will certainly have to work on moving forward.
Kendrick Perkins, C OKC: D
It's not often that Kendrick Perkins has a significant impact on a game, and that much was true against the Miami Heat.
At 6' 10'' and 265 pounds, Perkins should own the paint against an undersized Heat team, but as usual, he didn't.
Perkins ended the night with four points on 1-5 shooting, which to be honest, is rather terrible.
The Thunder don't expect him to be Tim Duncan or Zach Randolph, but they really need him to step up his production if they are going to dominate their competition.
If Perkins is going to score just four points a game, he certainly can't continue to turn the ball over like he did against the Heat—ending the night with four costly turnovers.
Chris Bosh, C MIA: B
Coming off his infamous cold, Chris Bosh did what many expected—he played consistently and did what he needed to do to help the Miami Heat win.
His production, to the tune of 16 points and six rebounds on 6-of-11 shooting, complemented LeBron James' dominance very nicely.
Bosh played just 31 minutes, but his production was significant during the time he was on the court.
As always, Bosh was very opportunistic on offense and didn't force shots, which is exactly what the Heat need him to do, especially when LeBron is playing at such a dominant level.
Most importantly, Bosh didn't miss a free throw, which was important down the stretch.
Kevin Martin, SG OKC: C+
James Harden did about this much against the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals, so Kevin Martin's production really doesn't impress or disappoint here.
His 10 first-half points helped the Thunder stay in this one early when Durant was on the bench in foul trouble.
Overall, Martin ended the night with 15 points on 4-10 shooting from the field. While that's not bad, it's not overly efficient, and that's an issue when the Thunder expect him to be an efficient spark coming off the bench.
The Thunder needed Martin to pick up his play late in the fourth quarter and he was unable to do that, which proved costly.
Shane Battier, SF MIA: D+
Unfortunately for the Heat, Shane Battier had a rather uneventful evening. Battier clearly wanted to be at home opening gifts from Santa rather than at AmericanAirlines Arena.
He played 12 minutes in the first half and scored a whopping zero points.
His defense wasn't terrible, but the Heat desperately needed bench production, and they didn't get it from the first man off the bench. Overall, Battier ended the night with zero points on 0-5 shooting.
The only reason why Battier didn't end with a failing grade is because of his defense, which helped solidify the Heat's second unit out on the floor.
Oklahoma City Thunder: C
Sure, aside from Kevin Martin the Thunder's bench production wasn't anything to write home about. But Martin did as well as he could given the competition he was going up against.
Nick Collison tacked on two important baskets in the fourth quarter, but the Thunder certainly need more production from their second unit as the season progress. While it wasn't a major reason why the Thunder fell to the Heat, it was certainly an important factor.
Without Martin's 15 points, the Thunder had just nine points coming off their bench.
Miami Heat: F
Aside from Mike Miller's six points, the Heat had next to nothing coming off the bench. They ended the night with just 12 points on 3-of-16 shooting from the floor.
When you consider that terrible performance, it's amazing that the Heat were able to stay in the game throughout the night.
The most shocking part of the Heat's woeful second unit was the non-impact of Ray Allen in the game. Allen accounted for just four points on 1-of-5 shooting.