April 4, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) talks with Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) during the third quarter at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE
LeBron James scored 34 points and dished 10 assists as the Miami Heat avenged an earlier loss to Oklahoma City with aggressive defense and extended their home winning streak to 17 games.
In a game that featured two of the top three offenses in the NBA, it was the physical, aggressive top 10 defenses of the teams that dominated the game, leaving both teams below the usual offensive efficiencies. Out of this defensive battle, LeBron James rose above the rest, scoring 34 points, grabbing seven rebounds and distributing 10 assists, helping Miami outlast Oklahoma City, 98-93 and extending Miami's home winning streak to 17 games.
Both teams shot below their shared excellence, as both teams entered the game at around 48 percent from the field. Miami shot 37 percent while the Thunder managed just 43 percent as well.
Miami set the tone early by playing strong and energetic, unlike during their earlier 103-87 loss in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder got the Heat back on their heels early. The teams combined for seven of the game's 16 blocked shots in the opening quarter, indicative of the game's aggressive defensive play.
Oklahoma City came into the game with the worst offensive turnover rate in the league and it was a problem again against Miami, turning themselves over 18 times, including seven times in the third quarter as Miami built a seven point lead.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 30 points on efficient 11-19 shooting, but the MVP candidate also led the team's turnover efforts by committing nine of them. Russell Westbrook turned it over four times against only two assists and played a step too fast most of the game, leading to an erratic 9-26 effort that featured a number of forced long shots and wild attempts inside.
The Thunder made a final run in the fourth quarter, taking an 81-80 lead with a bit more than nine minutes left in the game as the Heat missed their first eight shots in the final quarter. After James Harden made a follow-up layup to give the Thunder an 83-82 lead, Shane Battier hit back-to-back three-pointers to give the Heat the lead again.
That set the stage for an MVP mano-a-mano as Kevin Durant and LeBron James locked horns down the stretch. Durant hit a three to bring the Thunder back to within two, but James quickly answered with a layup. Then James stole the ball from Durant in the half court, only to have his transition basket thwarted by Durant, who blocked the shot. On the inbound play that followed, James scored on a driving layup.
Durant then turned a Dwyane Wade (19 points, five turnovers) turnover into a layup to bring the game back to within a single point. Now it was LeBron's turn, blocking a Westbrook transition layup that could have given the Thunder the lead and then converting it on the other end for a layup of his to stretch the lead back out again.
The Thunder got it back to a one-point game once again on an alley-oop to Durant, but while Durant hit the last bucket of his back-and-forth with James, he couldn't get a baseline jumper to go on his next attempt, hitting the side of the backboard nor could he hit a potential game tying three after Kendrick Perkins missed two free throws with 44 seconds left. Two Dwyane Wade free throws later, the Heat had their 17th straight win at home.
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