Last June the Oklahoma City Thunder watched the Miami Heat celebrate an NBA championship. Six months later, the Thunder met the Heat again.
The marquee matchup between LeBron James and Kevin Durant lived up to the hype. James, the reigning regular season and Finals MVP, nearly had a triple-double as he finished with 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Dwyane Wade backed up James with 21 points, as the Heat survived a frantic finish to beat the Thunder 103-97 on Tuesday.
”Felt a little bit like a different month,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told The Associated Press. ”Regardless of what your script is coming into the game, when you play this team, it’s not going to go according to script. They’re too good.”
But on this night, much like last June, the Heat were better.
Durant dropped a game-high 33 points and Westbrook netted 21 for Oklahoma City, but both Thunder stars missed potential game-tying 3-point attempts in the final seconds. Westbrook thought he was fouled on his 3-point attempt and slammed the scorers’ table in frustration when no foul was called.
”It was a great game. I can’t complain,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ”We could have done a better job of not turning the ball over in the first half. All in all, it was a great game to play and a great game to coach. Unfortunately, we didn’t come out with the win.”
Here are the rest of the Christmas Day results:
L.A. LAKERS 100, NEW YORK KNICKS 94
Playing in his record 15th Christmas Day game, Kobe Bryant engineered a second-half comeback to lead the Lakers to their fifth straight win and 2-0 since Steve Nash returned to the starting lineup. Bryant scored 34 points in his NBA-record 15th Christmas Day game and Metta World Peace added 20 points and seven rebounds while defending Carmelo Anthony, whose 34 points led the Knicks.
Bryant, the league’s leading scorer, has topped 30 or more points in nine straight games.
”If you’re going to play on Christmas, it’s always better to win. Makes it all worthwhile,” Bryant told AP. ”It’s so early in the season to have turned a corner. We have everybody in the lineup and we’re starting to see how we want to play.”
The Lakers improved to 14-14 – 9-9 under new coach Mike D’Antoni – and upped their holiday record to 21-18, including 13-9 at home. They returned to .500 for the first time since they were 8-8 on Nov. 30.
L.A. CLIPPERS 112, DENVER NUGGETS 100
The Clippers remain the hottest team in the NBA, pushing their winning streak to 14 straight which is a franchise record. Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes had 22 and 20 points, respectively, to spearhead a strong game from the Clippers bench.
Chris Paul had 14 points, eight assists, and three steals while Blake Griffin finished with 13 points, six rebounds, and six assists in just 25 minutes of action. The Clippers blew the game open with a 42-point outburst in the second quarter that propelled L.A. to a 67-48 halftime advantage.
HOUSTON ROCKETS 120, CHICAGO BULLS 97
Omer Asik returned to the United Center and had a double-double with 20 points and 18 rebounds.
”Omer is a big-time player in the middle,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale told AP. ”Tonight he was blocking shots, getting rebounds, and outletting the ball for us. He’s got a big body and sets wide picks for us. This was a very good game for him.”
James Harden scored 26 points and Jeremy Lin added 20 points and 11 assists for Houston, which had all five starters score in double figures. Chandler Parsons scored 23 points and Marcus Morris had 10. Houston has won six of seven.
BOSTON CELTICS 93, BROOKLYN NETS 76
The last time Celtics guard Rajon Rondo played against the Nets, he got into it with forward Kris Humphries and was thrown out of the game to stop his double-digit assist streak. It was redemption for Rondo on Christmas as he scored 19 points in his first full game against the Nets this season to help orchestrate a very impressive road win for Boston.
Rookie Jared Sullinger tied a career high with 16 points and Jeff Green had 15 for the Celtics, who was challenged by their head coach Doc Rivers after their “soft” performance in the previous meeting with Brooklyn. Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez each scored 15 for the Nets, who have lost four of five. The Nets’ high-priced backcourt of Deron Williams (10 points) and Joe Johnson (12 points) were a combined 7-for-21 from the field.