Thunder 98, Heat 80
With Kevin Durant hitting practically every shot he took, the Oklahoma City Thunder didn't have to worry about losing another game by a single point.
The Miami Heat never made it that close.
Durant scored 36 points on the most efficient shooting night of his career and also pulled down 10 rebounds as the Thunder beat the road-weary Heat 98-80 on Saturday night.
``I really was just proud of how we responded as a team after two tough losses. We could have easily just packed it in but we came out and responded and played hard from the beginning,'' Durant said. ``That's what I'm most proud of.
``You can throw away all I did. I'm just proud of how we came out and got the win.''
Durant went 14 for 18 from the field to finish at 77 percent, the highest mark of his three-year career. He made 13 of his first 14 shots, mostly jumpers, as the Thunder got out to a sizzling start and led by double digits throughout the second half.
``He can put the ball in the basket. There's not too many guys that's going to be able to stop him from doing that,'' said Dwyane Wade, who provided one of Durant's misses by blocking one of his jump shots. ``With his height, he's 7-foot something when he goes up to shoot. He's very tough to defend.''
Michael Beasley matched his career high with 28 points and Wade had 24 points and six assists, breaking Tim Hardaway's career record for the most assists in a Miami uniform. He needed only five in the game to match Hardaway's total of 2,867 and got there midway through the third quarter after setting up five dunks.
The Heat finished their longest road trip of the season at 3-3 but are hardly done with a brutal stretch on their schedule. They get only a one-game reprieve in Florida before heading back on the road during a period when they play 19 of 24 games on the road.
``I can say this now because we don't play them again, but I'm glad we don't meet these guys again until next year,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ``It'll give us some time to figure (defending Durant) out. He is so big and skilled and he can just shoot it over the top even when you're there and he doesn't even notice you. When he's shooting it the way he did today, it makes it even that much tougher.
``He's grown a lot. I remember him his rookie year. He was nothing like this.''
After going 20 for 49 against San Antonio and Dallas - the franchise's first consecutive one-point losses in more than seven years - Durant said he tried to get to the basket early to create openings for his jumper later. Three of his first four baskets came on layups, and then he started connecting from long range.
``I was able to knock some down. I hit a couple 3s, which I was praying when I let it off my hand,'' said Durant, who was 3 for 3 on 3-pointers. ``They went in for me.''
Jeff Green and James Harden each scored 14 points for the Thunder, who shot 59 percent through three quarters before cooling down after the game was out of reach.
``It makes the game so much easier when he's going out there and scoring the ball,'' Harden said of Durant. ``When the defenses collapse on him, that gets other guys open shots.''
The only miss for Durant among his first 14 shots was a jumper in the first quarter after Russell Westbrook had dumped the ball to him with only a couple seconds left on the shot clock. He didn't miss again until he was off-target on a jumper from the top of the key at the end of the third quarter.
By then, the Thunder were up 84-67. The lead grew to 20 before Durant and Wade, both among the top 5 scorers in the NBA, exited with about 4 minutes left.
``I thought about the San Antonio game and the last game all the way up until I got to the arena today. But as competitors you want to win every game,'' Durant said. ``Even though that's not possible, you want to win every game.
``I know we felt those losses in our hearts.''
Oklahoma City never relinquished the lead after a 20-6 surge in the first quarter that Durant finished with a three-point play to make it 23-14.
The Heat cut a 16-point deficit in half during the second quarter with the help of a string of Oklahoma City turnovers, the last coming when Westbrook rifled a pass right off of Durant's face as he stood only a few steps away.
Wade was fouled as he raced to the opposite end of the court and hit both free throws to get Miami within 51-43, but then the Heat returned the favor with an embarrassing moment of their own to trail by 10 at halftime.
Wade attracted a double team as he drove toward the basket, then dished to a wide-open Joel Anthony under the basket. The 6-foot-9 center went up and botched a dunk as he hung on the rim, getting called for basket interference in the process.
NOTES: An autographed Wade jersey and a basketball signed by the Thunder were raffled off to benefit the Haiti earthquake relief efforts. Spokesman Dan Mahoney said the raffle brought in $15,000. ``Obviously, it's a tragedy,'' Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. ``It's just amazing just watching it on television. I like the support that we're having and hopefully we can continue to do that, and even gather more support throughout our city and give as much as we can.'' ... Wade passed Glen Rice with his 417th game with 10 or more points with the Heat. He trails only Alonzo Mourning (442). ... Before this week's losses to San Antonio and Dallas, the Thunder franchise hadn't lost back-to-back games by one point since December 2003 against Phoenix and Denver when the team still played in Seattle.