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Thunder win to get over .500 mark

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MIAMI — When Kevin Durant hit the deck on a fourth-quarter dunk, all Oklahoma City Thunder fans surely held their collective breath.

Durant, though, stayed in the game and completed an impressive all-around performance — 19 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, four steals, one block and no turnovers in 39 minutes.

His efforts went a long way toward helping the Thunder surge over .500 for the first time this season, defeating the Miami Heat 94-86 Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“I’ve fallen plenty of times,” said Durant, insisting he was fine. “It’s just a little stinger. I fell on my (right) arm.”

The only flaw in his stat line was his marksmanship on 3-pointers — 0 for 8 — which was the second-worst long-distance shooting of his career.

Point guard Russell Westbrook added 19 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals for the Thunder (21-20).

Meanwhile, Thunder coach Scott Brooks reacted calmly when Durant got hurt.

“I wasn’t nervous,” Brooks said. “I thought he should have gotten the foul on that one, but he kept his composure.

“That’s part of the game. If you get a hard foul, you just have to play. Kevin is as tough as anyone in this league. He’s been fouled hard going to the basket many times, and he’s always bouncing up.”

The Heat wish the same could have been true for Hassan Whiteside, their young and emerging 7-foot center.

Whiteside, who made his first home start as a member of the Heat, sprained his right ankle with 4:17 left in the second quarter and did not return.

He was hurt when he tried to block a shot and came down on the foot of Thunder forward Serge Ibaka.

“It’s not a third-degree (sprain),” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “If there is a bright side, that would be it.”

Whiteside finished with 10 points in 11 minutes. He had three dunks, a tip-in and a jumper — all in the first nine minutes of the game.

With Whiteside in the game, the Heat led 27-24 after the first quarter and were tied 14-14 in the points-in-the-paint category.

After the first quarter, the Heat were outscored by 18 points in the paint and by 15 on second-chance points — two stats where Whiteside has been making an impact of late.

“He’s big and plays big,” Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade said of Whiteside, who likely won’t play in Miami’s game at Charlotte on Wednesday. “He protects the basket for us, and he catches and finishes.

“Hopefully he can get back soon. It seems like every time we get someone back (from injury), someone else goes out. It’s unfortunate.”

Wade could have been talking about himself because on Tuesday he returned to the lineup after missing two games due to a hamstring injury.

His return was marked by team highs in points (18) and assists (six). But he also had four turnovers.

Miami (18-23) fell to 7-13 at home despite 16 points and seven rebounds by forward Chris Bosh.

Miami got off to a good start, shooting 66.7 percent in the first quarter. The Thunder tightened their defense in the second quarter, holding the Heat to 44.4 percent shooting and cutting Miami’s lead to 50-49 at halftime.

Oklahoma City gained control of the game in the third quarter, taking a 72-67 lead into the fourth.

The Heat are now 1-20 this season when trailing to start the fourth period. Miami trailed by as many as nine points early in the fourth quarter, cut its deficit to two on three occasions but could not catch the Thunder.

NOTES: These teams met for the 2012 NBA title but are now struggling to make the playoffs while spending most of this season under .500. … The Heat unveiled their “black tie” uniforms. Heat F Luol Deng started despite being ill. He scored eight points. … The Heat played their first game since a 3-2 West Coast road trip. … Heat players sang “Happy (33rd) Birthday” to SG Dwyane Wade on the plane trip back from Sacramento. … Miami is 5-5 without Wade this season. … With Wade back after missing two games due to a hamstring injury, rookie PG Shabazz Napier returned to the bench. Napier started the first two games of his NBA career during the recent road trip. … The Thunder have come a long way from starting the season 3-12, a record that was largely due to two players who have since recovered from injuries: PG Russell Westbrook and SF Kevin Durant. … The Thunder end their five-game road trip against three projected playoff teams: Washington (Wednesday), Atlanta (Friday) and Cleveland (Sunday).

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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