NBA Preview from The Sports Network|
Thursday, February 14th
(All times Eastern)
Miami Heat (35-14) at Oklahoma City Thunder (39-13), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - There won't be much love for the red-hot LeBron James on
Valentine's Day Thursday night as the reigning and three-time NBA MVP takes
his latest scoring touch to the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
James may not have any finger prints left on his right hand for how well he's
been shooting the ball lately, but he probably won't need them in an NBA
Finals rematch with the Thunder. James became the first player in league
history to score 30 or more points and shoot no worse than 60 percent in six
straight games in a 117-104 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
The one better known as King James made 11-of-15 shots, finishing with 30
points, nine assists and six rebounds. He is averaging 31 ppg and 71.7 percent
from the floor during his current tear and is third in the NBA with 27.1 ppg.
"I was in the flow. Wanted to be aggressive, especially in the post early in
the game," James said. "I didn't pressure anything."
During the run, James has totaled 185 points, 40 rebounds and 39 assists.
James, who joined Adrian Dantley and Moses Malone the game before with his
fifth straight performance of 30-plus points and 60 percent shooting in
Sunday's win over the Los Angeles Lakers, has made 10 or more shots from the
floor in five of the last six games. He shot 73.3 percent against the Blazers.
Chris Bosh scored 32 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, while Dwyane Wade
finished with 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Heat, who
have won six straight and 11 of their last 13 games. The defending champions
completed a perfect five-game homestand and have won in a row as the host.
"The Miami Heat are one of the best, if not the best team in the league right
now," said Blazers coach Terry Stotts. "They are playing at a high level. We
matched it for about 44 minutes. It was disappointing to come up with a loss
but we lost to a good team."
The Heat shot 58.1 percent (43-for-74) for the game, outscored Portland,
46-38, in the paint and posted 24 points off 15 Portland miscues. Miami has
scored at least 20 points off turnovers in 12 of the last 15 games, averaging
22.2 points over that span. The team will begin a four-game road trip Thursday
that will be separated by the All-Star break and is 12-11 away from home.
James, Wade and Bosh will represent Miami in the 62nd All-Star game Sunday in
Houston. The trio has combined for at least 70 points in a game 65 times.
Miami is 19-5 against teams from the West and just posted the 1,000th victory
in team history. In injury news for the Heat, Mike Miller did not play versus
the Blazers because of the flu and Udonis Haslem suffered a leg injury in the
first quarter. X-rays were negative for Haslem. Miller and Haslem are both
questionable against the Thunder.
Oklahoma City looks to get back on track by trying to cool off James and the
defending champions. The Thunder had a four-game winning streak come to an end
in Tuesday's 109-94 setback at Utah and were outscored in all four quarters.
The Jazz went on a 20-4 run spanning the end of the third and beginning of the
fourth quarter to break open the game.
"They outrebounded us. They scored in the paint. We turned the ball over. We
just gave them the game. They executed on everything they did," said Thunder
star and three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant, who had 33 points, six
rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Russell Westbrook scored 22 points in the loss for Oklahoma City, which still
made 55.9 percent of its shots and committed 20 turnovers for 28 Jazz points.
The Thunder were 18-0 in games shooting 50 percent or better.
The Thunder will try to extend their home winning streak to eight games and
are 23-3 at Chesapeake Energy Arena this season. In games following a loss,
the defending Western Conference champions are 11-1 this season. The .917
winning percentage in games played after a loss leads the league.
The Thunder were eliminated by the Heat in five games during last season's NBA
Finals and lost the first rematch, 103-97, on Christmas Day in Miami. James
led the way with 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in that one for
Miami, which has won 10 of the last 15 regular-season meetings with OKC.
Durant and Westbrook will represent OKC in the upcoming All-Star game.
Oklahoma City has won two of the last three as the host in this series. In
order for the Heat to continue its success against the Thunder, James said his
team must defend, rebound and share the ball. But he knows going back to
Oklahoma City will be a tough chore.
"Their fans are great. They come out and support their team each and every
night," James said. "We know it's going to be pretty loud, but it will not
compare to a Finals game. Their fans are great. They love their team."
02/14 10:28:13 ET