It couldn’t have been a better showcase for the NBA on Christmas Day:
To some of the best NBA fans, that combination still doesn’t sound like a rivalry that will compare to some of the best in league history.
But for now, it’s a magnificent rivalry and got even better Christmas day when the two teams that met in the NBA finals last season slugged it out and Miami snuck away with a 103-97 victory.
LeBron James had just another day at the office with 29 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. He had the assist of the season late in the game to set up a Chris Bosh slam dunk that will make plenty of highlight reels for a long time.
The intensity level was a thing of beauty and could be felt nationwide by a national TV audience. James explained it simply to ABC in a post-game interview.
“These two teams have the same aspirations, to win an NBA championship,” he said. “It was a good fight by both teams.”
Kevin Durant incurred some foul trouble in the first half and was held to eight points as the Heat enjoyed a 54-48 lead. But James warned viewers that Durant was ready to make his move. And he did with a brilliant second half.
“He’s one of the greats,” James said.
So is James, who proved to be just a little bit better, along with his teammates, on this particular day. Going 19-of-19 from the free-throw line didn’t the Heat’s cause either
The Thunder surprised the pro basketball world by advancing to the NBA finals last season. This year, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if they did it again. It also wouldn’t be surprising if they won it this time.