The Miami Heat are learning first hand just how tough it is to chase a third straight NBA championship. Plenty of hungry teams want what they have, including Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder may dream of dethroning the Heat and taking the title away this spring, but Miami sent a message tonight with a dominating win.
After hearing about how Durant has outplayed him all season, LeBron James came out and asserted himself from the opening tip. Aggressively looking to set a tone and remind everyone who the best player on the planet is, James clearly treated this game like the clash of the titans it was.
The naysayers are always circling James, just waiting for any morsel of weakness to pounce on. Even though he was having a typically dominant year, the fact that Durant had an otherworldly month of January had some whispering that the time had come for James’ stranglehold on the league to be challenge.
Those whispers would have turned into shouts if Durant and the Thunder had come out and beat the Heat tonight. James knew it, and instead gave us one of the best games we’ve seen out of him in a while. He finished with 33 points on 15-22 shooting, outdueling Durant from the start of the game until the end.
And, to top it off, if there was anyone left still questioning his toughness or commitment, he left the game in the fourth quarter after being smacked in the face heading to the basket. After getting raked over the face he took a bad fall with a hard landing. Oh, and yeah, he still muscled his way to the hoop and made the basket.
The Heat will be tested again this spring. They aren’t as deep as they were the last two years, Dwyane Wade is a shell of his formerly dominant self, and the wear-and-tear of so many games has to be taking it’s toll on James. The Indiana Pacers just made themselves better at the trade deadline, and the Thunder aren’t going to back down if they get the chance to meet the Heat in the finals.
It won’t be easy for Miami to three-peat, but they treated tonight like a playoff game and reminded us all who the best team in the world is.