"They keep on coming," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra after the game. "They're relentless. They beat us at their game and beat us in a game that's very similar to [ours] when we're playing well. Every time I looked up they were shooting 50 percent. We have to regroup and move on."
at Oklahoma City
HEAT 100, THUNDER 96
LeBron James cruised to his third MVP award this season, snatching 85 of 121 first-place votes. But in the aftermath of Durant's 36-point performance in Game 1, the question was asked repeatedly: Who really is the game's best player?
Deep down most NBA observers know the answer is James, who makes up what he surrenders to Durant in scoring with a level of defense and playmaking that the young Thunder star has yet to reach. Still, Game 2 was an opportunity for James to remind everyone who it was who owned the hardware, and he seized it early, attacking Durant with a dazzling display of drives, jumpers and post-ups en route to eight first-quarter points.
For the second game in a row Miami surged to an early lead, opening with an 18--2 run, with James and Wade putting pressure on the defense and Battier picking up where he left off after his 17-point Game 1 performance. He buried two three-pointers in the first seven minutes to help the Heat build a 12-point first-quarter lead. "They had us back on our heels," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "They established their game, and they played attack basketball right from the very start."
The biggest change for Miami was the reinsertion of Bosh into the starting lineup, and it didn't take long for the All-Star forward to have an impact. Starting at center, Bosh gave Miami a quick post defender, helping the Heat get back in transition and stalling Oklahoma City's vaunted up-tempo attack. Offensively, Bosh (16 points) attacked Perkins in the paint while slipping past the slow-footed center on pick-and-rolls. "We needed every bit of his 'big,'" said Spoelstra. "And that's what he brought."
Oklahoma City went into halftime down by 12, but (sound familiar?) in the second half it kicked its offense into another gear. In the third quarter Durant and Westbrook alternated buckets, pressuring Miami's defense with relentless attacks. The Thunder cut the lead to six early in the fourth, when James Harden drove into the teeth of the Heat defense and flipped home an acrobatic layup. After playing just 22 minutes in Game 1—in part because of Sefolosha's value on defense, in part because of Harden's own ineffectiveness (five points)—Harden came alive in Game 2, scoring 21 points and playing solid defense.
Finally, though, Game 2 came down to James and Durant, NBA titans going head-to-head. James threw the first haymaker, banking home an off-balance 16-footer to swell Miami's lead to five with 1:25 to play. Durant responded with a layup and then a three-pointer that cut the deficit to two.