LeBron's top-flight play continues as streak ends
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — With a single meaningless miss, LeBron James' unprecedented run of high-scoring efficiency officially came to an end.
For King James, though, the greatness continues on.
James had 39 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists as the Miami Heat trampled the Oklahoma City Thunder 110-100 in a Thursday night showcase. All that spoiled it was a late miss from 3-point range that snapped his NBA record run of games with at least 30 points and 60 percent shooting at six straight games.
"It didn't bother me during the game, if I was shooting 60 percent or not," James said. "I just go out and play my game, and that was the result of it. It didn't bother me and it didn't matter if I got it tonight or not. ... To win is what it's all about."
James was just over 60 percent before missing from a couple steps beyond the 3-point line as the shot clock ran down with just over a minute left and Miami up 10. That dropped him to 14 for 24 in the game, or 58 percent.
All that mattered to him, though, was that Miami's winning streak reached a season-best seven games — and the Heat beat the Thunder for the sixth time in a row, dating to last year's NBA Finals.
Chris Bosh chipped in 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Heat, who won the last four games of last season's Finals after losing Game 1 in Oklahoma City and continued their dominance in the series after winning on their home court on Christmas Day.
"It's not from the Finals. It's not from anything," James said. "We just come in with a game plan."
Kevin Durant had 40 points and eight rebounds, but missed his first seven shots as Oklahoma City fell hopelessly behind. After the slow start, he wound up making half of his 24 shots — going 8 for 10 in the fourth quarter to get Oklahoma City within 108-100 after trailing by as much as 23.
It wasn't enough to measure up against James, who beat him in last year's MVP race and then the Finals before the two won a gold medal together at the London Olympics.
"It's fun. I take on the challenge every time we're playing," Durant said. "He had a great game. He was making some tough shots, man — one-leggers, fadeaways in corners, 3s. So, you've got to tip your hat to that.
"I just wanted to keep putting pressure on him. I missed a few and then I started to hit in the fourth. I just tried to will my team back in the game, but it didn't work."
Russell Westbrook had 26 points and 10 assists, with six turnovers, for the Thunder. He had 20 points in the first half to keep Oklahoma City from getting run out of its own gym.
James already had put his stamp on the game by then, with 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists as Miami took a 63-46 lead. Even though Durant suggested earlier in the day that no one would win the league MVP based on one midseason game, James again showed off what has made him the best.
"It's a beautiful mentality that he has, to have a pro's mindset and not just become complacent with greatness," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "If you're the best player in the game and you've won multiple MVPs, the natural tendency would be to relax but he doesn't have that in his genes."
Now that he has his first championship, all that's left for James is to keep building on his legacy. But what more can he do?
"I guess he could shoot 80 percent from the field. He could get better than 60 and 70," said teammate Dwyane Wade, who had 13 points and eight assists before fouling out with 3:29 to play. "That's the only thing.
"He does everything on the floor. Everything for him is coming together."
If there was any doubt, the Heat showed the Thunder that the NBA championship still resides on South Beach, and they'll have to come through James if they want one of their own.
"He's going to break a lot of records, he's going to have all the numbers. It's just going to be how many championships he gets that people are going to talk about," Wade said. "That's a different kind of conversation."
Despite playing without injured starting forward Udonis Haslem (leg) and then losing two starters to foul trouble in the first 6 minutes, the Heat took control by scoring 11 straight points midway through the first period and went up 28-13 when Ray Allen made the free throw after Durant drew his 11th technical foul of the season.
Miami never trailed and led by as much as 79-56 when James put back a missed jumper by Bosh with 5:07 left in the third quarter. That matched the largest deficit of the season for the Thunder, who also were down 23 in a home loss against Brooklyn last month.
Oklahoma City fell to 23-4 at home and suffered back-to-back losses for only the second time all season — with the Heat responsible for the second loss on both occasions. The defeat also dropped the Thunder (39-14) to even in the loss column with Miami (36-14) as the two potentially jockey for home-court advantage if there's a Finals rematch.
San Antonio (42-12) has the best record in the league and is the only team ahead of Miami and Oklahoma City.
Notes: Miami had two winning streaks of six games earlier in the season. ... The Heat had shot at least 55 percent in its previous two games and were trying to do it in a third straight game for the first time in franchise history. They ended up at 47 percent, going 41 for 88. ... Oklahoma City went 21 for 22 at the foul line in the first half to keep the margin from getting even worse Westbrook was 10 for 11 and Durant went 9 for 9.