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Durant, Thunder stop James, Heat

The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- The individual matchup between the NBA's top two candidates for MVP did not disappoint.

But the battle between the reigning two-time NBA champion Miami Heat and the top team in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder, turned out to be a bit of a dud, especially in the final 42 minutes.

The Thunder overcame an 18-point first-quarter deficit to drill the Heat 112-95 on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Over those final 42 minutes, the Thunder outscored the Heat 108-73.

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

"Our guys were up and ready for this game. (The Thunder) were up and ready, and they played better than us."

In the matchup of superstars, Heat forward LeBron James, a four-time league MVP, had 34 points on 12-of-20 shooting. But he did not play his usual stellar floor game -- just three rebounds, three assists and three turnovers. He was 9 of 9 on the foul line but just 1 of 5 on 3-pointers.

Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, a three-time NBA scoring champ, had 33 points, seven rebounds and five assists with four turnovers. He was 5 of 5 from the foul line and 4 of 9 on 3-pointers.

"We were down 22-4, and we could have easily folded up, especially on the road," Durant said. "It could be my last game any time I step on the floor, so I have to give it my all."

Durant enjoyed his 12th consecutive game with 30 or more points. His streak is the third longest in the NBA in the past 30 years, trailing only runs by Kobe Bryant (16) and Tracy McGrady (14).

"(James and Durant) are going to go down as two of the greatest players ever to play the game," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Defensively, they are solid. Offensively, they are amazing.

"They were challenging each other. It would've been fun to clear the court and watch them play one on one. But the thing I love is that they are both team guys."

Forward Serge Ibaka scored 22 points to help Oklahoma City (37-10) extend its winning streak to nine games. The Thunder also got major contributions from reserve guards Jeremy Lamb (18 points) and Derek Fisher (15 points). Fisher made all five of his 3-point attempts.

"Our effort was great -- it was a good team win," Brooks said. "I thought Fisher did a great job inspiring us when we got down. He made a couple of big threes, and everyone chipped in."

Miami (32-13) lost at home for just the fourth time in 23 games this season. Forward Chris Bosh added 18 points for the Heat, guard Dwyane Wade scored 15.

Oklahoma City won the game largely due to 3-point shooting. The Thunder made 16 of 27 from beyond the arc (59.3 percent), while the Heat made just 3 of 19 (15.8 percent).

After the Heat got off to their hot start, the Thunder got back in the game with a 12-0 run.

By the end of the first, the Heat led 30-21. Bosh had 11 of Miami's first 22 points, and the Heat outshot the Thunder 55 percent to 36 percent in the period.

The Thunder won the second quarter 34-20 and led 55-50 at halftime. The Thunder outshot the Heat 52 percent to 42 percent in the quarter. Bosh cooled off in the second quarter -- only one point -- and Lamb heated up with 13 points.

"(The Heat) doubled off the pick and roll," Lamb said. "We swung the ball to find the open shots."

At the half, Durant (16 points) and James (15) virtually negated each other.

The Thunder outscored the Heat 36-25 in the third quarter and headed into the fourth leading 91-75. Fisher closed the quarter by banking in a 3-pointer at the buzzer. It was the second 3-pointer Fisher made off the glass in the game.

The Durant vs. James duel heated up in the third quarter as each scored 12 points. Durant made 4 of 7 shots, including two 3-pointers, and James made 5 of 7.

"He made some great shots," Spoelstra said of Durant. "Those are the shots that everyone will remember. From our standpoint, we will remember some of the close-outs we didn't make to give Lamb and Fisher some open threes."

NOTES: After Sunday's game against the San Antonio Spurs in which he came off the bench for the first time in eight years, Heat G Dwyane Wade returned to the starting lineup Wednesday. Wade was used as a reserve Sunday because he missed four games due to knee soreness and wanted to work his way back into fitness. ... Since the Thunder clinched the best record in the West by the Feb. 2 cut-off date, Scott Brooks will coach the conference's team at the All-Star Game. He also coached the West in 2012. ... Thunder F Kevin Durant was averaging 28.2 points when G Russell Westbrook was healthy. In the first 17 games since Westbrook got hurt, Durant averaged 36.5 points. His shot total went up from 18 to 22 per game. ... Next up for the Heat is a Saturday night game at the New York Knicks, where the teams will be part of the pre-Super Bowl hoopla. ... The Thunder will also be in New York this weekend, playing the Brooklyn Nets on Friday.
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