Talons to South Beach

There was chatter earlier this week about how LeBron James had managed to draw no fouls in a couple hundred minutes of playing time. I expected this streak to continue — hey, they’re playing in front of the home crowd on Christmas Day on national television, fercrissake — but ’twas not to be. In fact, King James got rung up for three personals and a tech tonight, but it didn’t matter a whole lot: the Thunder eventually started getting stops in the fourth quarter, but they didn’t get buckets in between those stops, and five consecutive free throws by Ray Allen and Chris Bosh — the Heat didn’t miss a foul shot all night — put Miami up 103-97 at the horn.

Let us not minimize James’ accomplishments. He went 12-20 from the floor (though he didn’t nail any of three 3-pointers) for 29 points, picked up eight rebounds and delivered nine assists. At the wings, Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade teamed up for 41 points. Off the bench, Shane Battier didn’t score, but he added to his reputation as the South Beach Enforcer. The Heat trailed the Thunder in rebounds (39-34), but led in assists (20-14) and shooting percentage (48-42). And there were those 19 of 19 free throws. The Thunder managed twice as many, but missed six. (And, I mention purely in passing, lost by six.)

If Erik Spoelstra had a specific game plan tonight, it was probably “screw with Westbrook’s head.” Russell wangled 11 rebounds and 21 points, though his delivery was off (three assists, 5-19 shooting) and several calls he thought he should have gotten, he didn’t. But communication breakdowns happened all night, not just with Westbrook: Miami got off a lot of uncontested shots. Kevin and Kevin were mostly on track, Durant leading everyone with 33 points, Martin leading the OKC bench with 15 — but empty possessions take their toll, and the Thunder had four in a row in the fourth quarter, even while they had Miami’s offense temporarily stymied.

The sad-sack Mavs will drift into OKC on Thursday night, after which the Thunder take a trip to Houston. Maybe being closer to home will do them some good.

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