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Wednesday, January 29th (All times Eastern)
Oklahoma City Thunder (36-10) at Miami Heat (32-12), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the NBA's best hook up in a possible NBA Finals preview Wednesday night when the red-hot Oklahoma City Thunder visit South Beach to take on the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.
The Thunder head into the matchup the winners of eight straight, while the Heat have been a perfect 3-0 during this homestand, which wraps up Wednesday night.
LeBron James has won the last two MVP awards and four of the last five, but it appears Kevin Durant's to lose at the halfway point of the season.
James is a surefire candidate once again, averaging 26.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 6.5 apg. Those numbers, coupled with an outrageous 58 percent shooting from the field, make James hard to beat.
Except for Durant who has been on a massive tear of late. On Monday, he scored 41 against the Atlanta Hawks, including the winning jumper with 1.5 seconds left. He has scored 30 or more in 11 straight games, the longest streak of its kind since Tracy McGrady did it in 14 consecutive contests in March and April of 2003.
"There's nothing more to say," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said of Durant. "He's a special player. He's going to be an MVP candidate until he decides to retire. He's an amazing teammate, which I'm as proud of that, as he is as a player. He cares about the game. He cares about his team. He cares about Oklahoma City. He's just a great ambassador, not only to our team but the league and to the basketball world."
Durant, who was 15-of-25 from the floor, 5-of-7 from beyond the arc and 6-of-8 from the foul line, led OKC to a 111-109 victory in Atlanta.
The Thunder were down eight at the start of the fourth, but Durant led them back and gave them the lead with 25.5 seconds left. Paul Millsap scored for the Hawks, then Durant pulled up from the right elbow and swished in the jumper before a pair of Hawks players were able to converge on him.
Reggie Jackson, who has done admirable work in the absence of Russell Westbrook, finished with 18 points, followed by 14 from Jeremy Lamb off the bench.
The Heat picked up their third consecutive victory in relative ease Sunday when they won a Finals rematch against the San Antonio Spurs. Miami prevailed 113-101 although the final score wasn't indicative of the closeness.
Chris Bosh scored 24 points and James tallied 18 in the win. Bosh hit on 9- of-10 attempts and Mario Chalmers went 6-of-8 in a 16-point, seven-assist effort. James added seven rebounds and six assists before sitting the entire fourth quarter with Miami up big.
Dwyane Wade returned to action for Miami following a four-game absence due to knee soreness, recording eight points and five assists over 24 minutes in his first game coming off the bench since Jan. 6, 2008.
Now, the Heat and Thunder will battle in a rematch of the 2011-2012 NBA Finals. Miami prevailed then, and it could've been a rematch if Westbrook didn't get hurt in the first round last year.
But the matchup everyone wants to see is Durant vs. James.
"Obviously, any time you go against one of the best players in the league, you definitely get up for it," said James. "You love going against great competitors and he's one of them. I always look forward to playing against him."
The Heat beat the Thunder in five games for the first ring of this version of the Big Three. Miami has taken three straight against OKC in the regular season although the two squads have split the last four regular-season tilts in South Beach.
01/29 10:32:25 ET