The Oklahoma City Thunder (37-10) crushed the Miami Heat (32-13) 112-95 on Wednesday night behind 33 points from Kevin Durant. It was the 12th straight game in which Durant scored at least 30 points.
After falling behind 22-4 in the first quarter, the Thunder went on an absolute rampage, outscoring the Heat by 26 over the game's final three quarters. They scored a combined 70 points over the second and third quarters compared to Miami's mark of 45, and it was all thanks to Scott Brooks' tactical decision to combat the Heat's small lineup with a small grouping of his own.
"I just thought to win this game, we had to make a decision," Brooks said regarding the decision to shake up his rotation, according to Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick.
Durant on going small: "It's a better matchup for us, I guess,"— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) January 30, 2014
Both teams shot 51 percent, but it was Oklahoma City's 59 percent shooting from three (16-of-27) that set them apart from a Miami team that struggled mightily from beyond the arc, hitting on just three of its 19 attempts.
.@KDTrey5 has 12 straight games w/ 30+pts & 4+asts, tied w/ Tiny Archibald & Kareem for 2nd longest such streak in NBA history, via ELIAS— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) January 30, 2014
LeBron James led all scorers with 34 points in 42 minutes, but he was bested by Durant on both ends of the floor in Oklahoma City's league-leading 17th road win of the season.
The Thunder has now won nine games in a row, the longest current streak in the NBA.
LeBron James, Miami Heat, Small Forward
The fun didn't really get started for James until late in the third quarter, when he and Kevin Durant began trading blows, but it's safe to say that the reigning MVP was outplayed by this year's front-runner.
What was going through Durant's head as he and LeBron went shot for shot? "Rucker Park."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) January 30, 2014
Offensively, James was terrific, scoring 34 points on 12-of-20 shooting, and was extremely motivated to get to the rim, evident by the nine points he racked up at the free-throw line. But unlike Durant, James couldn't find his stroke from deep (1-of-5 from three), and didn't look to facilitate all that much (three assists).
And as B/R's Jared Zwerling pointed out, it was extremely odd to see James get schooled off-the-bounce by his fellow elite counterpart:
Seeing LeBron have that tough of time dealing with Durant off the dribble is just crazy ...— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) January 30, 2014
What's arguably stranger is that the Heat were minus-17 with James on the floor, the second-worst mark of any Heat player.
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat, Shooting Guard
After coming off of the bench in Sunday's victory over the San Antonio Spurs, Dwyane Wade returned to the starting lineup against the Thunder, as expected.
And while Wade was by no means electric in 32 minutes, he was certainly efficient, scoring 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting, although he did commit four turnovers and dish out just two assists in the loss.
However, Wade appeared to settle for jump shots more often than not, lacking his trademark explosiveness and aggression as it pertained to attacking the paint.
It was just Miami's seventh loss this season with Wade in the lineup.
Chris Bosh, Miami Heat, Center
Chris Bosh remained scalding hot against the Thunder, showing off every move in his offensive arsenal against the league's fourth-ranked defense.
The man who entered Wednesday averaging 19.6 points on 56.8 percent shooting over his last 10 games, Bosh torched OKC early and often with a variety of jumpers and off-the-dribble rack attacks and was the first player into double figures with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting over the game's first 12 minutes.
Although Bosh did cool down slightly after gashing OKC early on, he was nothing if not consistent, scoring 18 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat, Point Guard
Four points, eight assists and six rebounds would ordinarily be worthy of average marks, but a game-high five turnovers from Mario Chalmers drop his grade significantly.
On a night when Miami was suffocated by Oklahoma City's defense over the game's final 36 minutes, Chalmers was sloppy with the ball when his team could least afford giveaways.
In total, the Thunder scored 25 points off of 21 Heat turnovers.
Ray Allen, Miami Heat, Sixth Man
There were some odd plus-minus figures that emerged from Wednesday's heavyweight prizefight, but none may have been stranger than Ray Allen's mark of minus-17 in 14 first-half minutes and minus-24 overall.
Based on those figures, it shouldn't come as a surprise that it was a quiet and unproductive night for the perimeter specialist who's struggled to the tune of 33 percent shooting in the month of January.
Allen finished with five points on 1-of-4 shooting as his game continues to lack any semblance of rhythm.
Shane Battier, Miami Heat, Power Forward
In order to mask Shane Battier's lack of foot speed, the Miami Heat matched their undersized power forward up with the offensively challenged Kendrick Perkins. Unfortunately for Miami, that didn't last long.
Battier defending Perkins would constitute a complete disrespect of Perkins' post game. If he had a post game.— Michael Wallace (@WallaceNBA_ESPN) January 30, 2014
Once Perkins was subbed out, Battier became a relative non-factor, finishing with three points (1-of-5 shooting), three rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes.
Bench, Miami Heat
Unlike Oklahoma City's bench mob, Miami's second unit wasn't able to provide much relief for a group of starters that was tasked with carrying the load.
Michael Beasley and Chris Andersen were the Heat's only bench bodies to score during a first half in which the Thunder's reserves outscored them by 15.
Things wouldn't get much better, as Beasley, Andersen, Norris Cole and Co. were outscored by 18 total and shot a combined 8-of-15 from the field.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder, Small Forward
Entering Wednesday night, Kevin Durant was averaging 37.8 points per game while shooting 53.7% from the field over his last 13 games.
But despite early struggles (seven points on 2-of-5 shooting in the first quarter), recent history was on Durant's side when it came to rebounding and putting up gaudy scoring figures:
This is the 3rd straight game Durant has scored 7 points in the first quarter. Will he get to 30 again? #OKCvsMIA— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 30, 2014
As you may have guessed, Durant was able to work into a productive groove, one that resulted in 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting, six rebounds and two dimes in the first half.
From there on out, it was smooth sailing for the Slim Reaper, as he finished with a complete 33 points (12-of-23 shooting, 4-of-9 from three), seven rebounds and five assists on a night when all of his tools were on display. It was the 12th-straight game in which Durant dropped at least 30 points.
Kevin Durant is the 3rd player in last 30 seasons with 12 consecutive 30-point games (Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant). #OKCvsMIA— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 30, 2014
More importantly, though, Wednesday marked the first time since Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals that Durant had defeated James, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder, Power Forward
When nothing else was working for the Oklahoma City Thunder offense in the first quarter, Serge Ibaka was there to provide a touch of stability.
In fact, Ibaka was practically forced to operate as OKC's primary weapon early as Durant and the Thunder offense sputtered, and he attempted nine of the team's first 22 shots, scoring six points in the process.
Ibaka was unable to secure his second double-double in his last three games, but proved to be a reliable Robin to Durant's Batman all night long, finishing with 22 points (10-of-20 shooting) and eight rebounds.
Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder, Point Guard
Reggie Jackson's minutes were limited early due to foul trouble, but he made an instant impact from beyond the arc to open the second half, contributing to Oklahoma City's 9-2 run to start the third quarter.
All told, that was exciting as things would get for Jackson, as Russell Westbrook's substitute was good for nine points, four assists and two steals.
Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City Thunder, Shooting Guard
Thabo Sefolosha put forth arguably one of his most complete efforts against the Heat, led by active hands. His three first-half steals were huge as the Thunder fought all the way back from an 18-point deficit in the second quarter, and his energy on both ends of the floor seemed infectious throughout.
Sefolosha finished with a game-high six steals (two more than the Heat had as a team), nine points, five rebounds and four assists on a night when the Thunder were plus-12 with him on the floor.
Kendrick Perkins, Oklahoma City Thunder, Center
Give Erik Spoelstra credit: He set out to expose Perkins from the opening tip, and boy did that go well. Bosh's dominance on the offensive end was evident, and the plodding Perkins was left helpless when isolated on the eight-time All-Star.
Chris Bosh with 11 points, 4 rebounds halfway through the first quarter. Most vs Perk.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 30, 2014
After the Thunder went minus-13 with Perkins on the floor over the game's first 4:35, Brooks' team exploded as they combated Miami's small lineup with perimeter firepower and floor spacing.
Since Kendrick Perkins checked out: Thunder 96, Heat 60.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) January 30, 2014
Jeremy Lamb, Oklahoma City Thunder, Sixth Man
Jeremy Lamb announced his presence with back-to-back threes that cut Miami's lead to five early in the second quarter, a period in which the Thunder's offense came alive thanks to the long ball.
Compiling 13 of his 18 points in the frame, Lamb, along with Derek Fisher, helped close the gap with his aggressive offensive approach. The former UConn Husky added four assists and three rebounds to his final tally in a stellar outing that saw him hit four threes and finish plus-21.
Bench, Oklahoma City Thunder
Believe it or not, Fisher provided the offensive spark that the Thunder so sorely needed, connecting on his first three attempts from beyond the arc.
In 18 productive minutes, Fisher kept the OKC offense flowing, and finished with 15 points on 5-of-5 shooting from three, including two miraculous bank shots and a game-high (!) plus/minus of plus-24.
Collectively, Oklahoma City's bench posted a plus-minus of plus-72 and drilled 10-of-12 threes, and it was nice to see a versatile and energetic athlete like Jones see extended minutes (30 total).
Miami will square off against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday while the Thunder will look to capture a 10th-straight win when they duel with the Brooklyn Nets on Friday.