News item: Using generally accepted accounting procedures: American Airlines Group — which included the former US Airways numbers only since Dec. 9 — lost $1.83 billion in 2013, compared with a $1.88 billion loss in 2012.
American, whose name is over the door where the Heat play, might have been smiling early on despite that bottom-of-the-report report: the Thunder made the first shot, and didn’t make another until Miami had rolled up 20 points. Somehow OKC pulled to within nine at the end of the quarter.
And suddenly, there was an generally unaccepted loss. Oklahoma City outscored Miami 70-45 over the next two quarters and then opened the fourth with a 7-0 run. With 1:46 left, the writing was on the arena wall, and the starters vanished; the ticket-holders were already gone. Oklahoma City 112, Miami 95, and I’m not saying it’s a preview of the Finals, but — hey, it could happen, right?
This game was billed as Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James, and that aspect of it turned out to be a draw. James had 34 points, Durant 33; James shot 12-20, Durant 12-23 (though KD made four of nine treys, LeBron one of five); James delivered three assists, Durant five. But as KD will probably tell you, he got a lot more help than King James did: the other two members of the South Beach Triumvirate, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, had 18 and 15 points respectively, but nobody else in black hit double figures. Chris “Birdman” Andersen led the bench with, um, eight.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Lamb and Derek Fisher banked treys from all over the place, Lamb nailing four of six for 18 points and Fisher hitting five of five for 15. It helped that Scott Brooks saw the wisdom of playing small against the Heat: Kendrick Perkins played the opening five minutes and was never seen again, and Steven Adams appeared just long enough to appear in the box score. And it looked like the entire team was hosed down with Battier Repellent: Shane disappeared after 19 minutes with three points and four fouls. But here’s your Telltale Statistic: OKC forced twenty Miami turnovers, thirteen of which involved simply swiping the ball. Serge Ibaka had to block only once. Then again, Serge also threw down 22 points.
Of course, what you’re going to see in the highlight reels is the last couple minutes of the third quarter, with James and Durant going at each other. You could do a whole SportsCenter just on that.
Friday night: in Brooklyn. Not a joke. Saturday night: in Washington. Also not a joke. For now, let us laugh.