Next time, that guy in the front row might want to keep his mouth closed.
With a little more than two minutes left in the first half of the Heat’s wire-to-wire 110-100 blowout of the Thunder on Thursday night, a fan seated courtside began playfully heckling LeBron James. The young man was obviously feeling confident, what with the nice-looking Valentine’s Day companion seated to his left.
It was all going so perfectly, this couple’s date to Chesapeake Energy Arena. Then James offered them and the rest of the sold-out building something bitterly cold to hold onto until perhaps this summer — the memory of a broken heart.
James dashed the hopes of Oklahoma City in June 2012, and he did it again Thursday.
But the Finals were exciting. The final regular-season matchup of 2012-13 between these once-again contenders was exciting only for the simple fact that James once again extended his franchise-record shooting streak.
And it all started with that fan in the front row who couldn’t stop yapping.
The brave soul said too much, apparently, during one of James’ shot attempts from outside the three-point line with 2:10 left in the second quarter. James stroked the three-pointer, then backpedaled down the court while staring at the speechless patron.
From there, James didn’t miss much.
On the Heat’s next trip down the floor, James stepped back and knocked down a 22-footer. Feeling in the zone, James strutted down the court and played up his hot hand to the nationally televised audience and an arena that considers James Public Enemy No. 1.
After that, fans in the front row began leaning over to the heckler and begging him to shut up.
But it was too late. James, who began the game 3 of 6 from the field before going into overdrive, had it going, and he was just getting started. With 24.3 seconds left in the half, James drained another three-pointer, his fourth of the first half, to give the Heat an 18-point lead.
“He told me to shoot it,” James said of the heckler. “He said, ‘Shoot it. You can’t shoot.’ I said, ‘OK.’ And I shot it.
“And I made it, and I made another one and I made another one and I made another and then I made another one. He stopped talking to me after that.”
After a silly foul with 5.5 seconds left in the half, James theatrically jogged to midcourt and pointed upward to the ceiling to claim the call. No explanation for the theater was needed. He owned the court at that moment, finishing the first half with 23 points, a season high, while posting eight rebounds and four assists.
The Heat led 63-46 at halftime and things only got mildly interesting from there. Oklahoma City cut the Heat’s lead to single digits late in the fourth quarter, but key shots by James, Chris Bosh and Shane Battier never allowed the Thunder to make a serious run. James finished with 39 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists while shooting 58 percent from the field (14 of 24).
“Mentally, it was a really good road win for us,” James said.
James extended his franchise-record streak of at least 30 points in consecutive games to seven but couldn’t extend his NBA record run of efficiency. Entering the game, James had scored at least 30 points in six consecutive games while also shooting better 60 percent in each game.
James’ dunk past Russell Westbrook with 1:28 left gave the Heat a 108-96 lead. Ray Allen knocked down a pair of free throws with 42 seconds left to ensure the win.
Kevin Durant finished with 40 points, shooting 12 of 24 from the field, but began the game just 2 of 10. Durant had 26 points on 14 shots in the second half.
The arena was supercharged and that was before Durant took a hard spill in the first quarter. Durant collided awkwardly with Rashard Lewis while going for a rebound and fell to the floor with a freighting thud. After writhing in pain for about a minute during a Thunder timeout, Durant shook off the pain and continued.
James was brilliant once again, and now heads to Houston for the All-Star Game in top form. Also in excellent form was Bosh, who finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks. Bosh was 10 of 14 from the field in another efficient effort. Dwyane Wade had 13, going 5 of 13 from the field.
“We came into this game knowing it was a very good matchup for both teams,” Bosh said. “We’re jockeying for position. We have the tiebreaker now, and you never know when you need that. That’s very important.”
Shane Battier started for Udonis Haslem (leg contusion) and had six points. Ray Allen had 13 points off the bench. The Heat shot 46.6 percent from the field overall and held the Thunder to 33 percent shooting in the first half. Russell Westbrook had 26 points on 19 shots.