Heat pumped up to take on Thunder in OKC
FEB 13, 2013 1:50p ET
Neither happened. After the Thunder had manhandled the Heat in 105-94 in Game 1 of last June’s NBA Finals, they lost Game 2 at home. They then dropped the next three games in Miami, and that was it.
The Heat finally will return Thursday to Oklahoma City. Center Chris Bosh believes it won’t be too different from the last time they were in town.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere,’’ Bosh said. “I think it’s going to be like the Finals were last year. We know what that crowd brings. I don’t think they can tell the difference between a big game and the Finals. That’s how it feels when you hear them. So we’re ready for it.’’
It marks the second and final matchup of the regular season between the defending East and West champions. The Heat won the first meeting 103-97 at home on Christmas Day.
It’s also pits two of the primary contenders for NBA MVP. Miami forward LeBron James, averaging 27.1 points, on Tuesday became the first player in NBA history to have six straight games with 30 or more points while shooting 60 percent or better. Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant is averaging a league-best 29.0 points while vying for a fourth straight scoring title.
Plenty of folks around the NBA figure to be watching. With 26 of the league’s 30 teams having started their All-Star breaks after Wednesday’s games, the Heat and Thunder and Clippers and Lakers, who play in the second game of Thursday night’s TNT doubleheader, remain on display.
“This is a game that everybody will be wanting to watch,’’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of his team’s affair. “The last game before the break, sometimes as a coach you would be worrying about whether your team will be engaged or thinking about the break. But our guys will not be thinking about the break and I don’t think their guys will be either.’’
It’s a good time for the matchup considering the two powerhouses lately have been at the top of their games. The Heat (35-14) have won six in a row with James starring.
The Thunder (39-13) did slip up in a 109-94 loss Tuesday at Utah. But before that, they had won four straight, all by 20 or more points.
“It’s a great game to end before the break," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “It’s not one of those games that you just got to go up and try to muscle up some energy. They’re going to be fired up and we are too. It’s going to be a tough road game for us.’’
The Heat figured out how difficult it is to play in Oklahoma City when they were outplayed in a regular-season meeting 103-87 last March and in Game 1 of the Finals. But they mustered up enough to beat the Thunder 100-96 in Game 2 of the Finals. That was Oklahoma City’s only loss in 10 playoff home games last spring.
The Heat that night quieted the crowd by taking a 27-15 lead after the first quarter. They sure wouldn’t mind a similar occurrence Thursday.
“It’s really fun,’’ James said of what awaits. “I think both teams will accept the challenge. ... Both teams want to continue to get better and try to end on a high note going into the break. We’re not going to put much more added pressure on it. We understand the magnitude of the game. We understand what they’re going to come in with and we will be ready for it.’’
James will be ready for the raucous crowd. But he didn’t agree with Bosh that it will conjure up memories from last June.
“It won’t be like Game 2,’’ James said. “There’s no way a regular-season game can ever compare to a Finals game. But their fans are great. ... We know it’s going to be pretty loud, but it will not compare to a Finals game. That’s totally different.’’
If that’s the case, the Heat and Thunder can always do it again this June.
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