So what happened when the revised and edited Thunder defense took its talents to South Beach? The Heat were able to connect on only 38.5 percent of their shots, only three of 17 from beyond the arc, and OKC outrebounded them 51-40 all with Kendrick Perkins fouling out with a couple of minutes left. Up by a single point at halftime, the Thunder knocked off the Heat 96-85, and while the triumvirate of Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 61 points, the entire Miami starting lineup had … 62. (Erick Dampier made one of two foul shots.)
Admittedly, the Thunder didn’t shoot all that much better: 39.8 percent. But they sank nine of 20 treys. Who would have thought this team could shoot the long ball? Kevin Durant, who hit two of three, finished with 29 points; Russell Westbrook added 18, and James Harden led the bench with 12. (Which, yes, is only 59.) Serge Ibaka had 12 rebounds, and radio guy Matt Pinto swears the Serge Protector blocked more than the three shots recorded in the box score.
Scott Brooks seems to be getting used to a 10-man rotation now, with Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed spelling Ibaka and Perkins, and spot shooting from ex-Heat Daequan Cook. (Cook hit two of four treys for six points in ten minutes.) Brooks tends to leave things alone once they seem to be working, and a 44-23 record seems to meet the definition of “working.”
To follow: six home games, starting with the Bobcats on Friday night and the Raptors on Sunday. And that’s the last we’ll see of the Eastern Conference until the season finale against the Bucks. Of course, if somehow the Thunder end up in the Finals, they’ll have to play some Eastern team, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.