OKC Thunder (43-23, 20-14 road) at Miami Heat (46-21, 25-9 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.9 (6th), Heat– 111.0 (5th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 107.6 (16th), Heat – 103.2 (5th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.9 (12th), Heat – 91.0 (19th)
View from the enemy: Heat Index
In truth, this game has no more meaning than the last two against the Wizards and Cavs. It’s against an Eastern opponent that won’t pick up or lose ground on the Thunder because of tonight’s result. In reality, it counts the exact same in the standings as anything else.
But we all know it means a little more. The players know it, and feel it. Even Scott Brooks admitted it saying that there’s little higher level of excitement for these types of games. The Thunder’s playing well, just inserted Kendrick Perkins into the starting lineup and needs to keep up the momentum they’ve established so far in March. It’s not the most important game of the season to date, but it might be the most anticipated.
Miami coming in: After infamously dropping five straight, the Heat have won three in a row against good teams. They last played Monday.
The prime matchup is always Kevin Durant and LeBron James. It’s two of the top three players in basketball going head-to-head for 40 minutes. It’s what we all want. It’s a huge matchup and it’s always fun. Neither has an edge because both do things differently. KD actually does a pretty good job of defending LeBron and LeBron does likewise. That’s why this game will come down to secondary players.
Russell Westbrook could be as much an x-factor as Dwyane Wade, mainly because Mario Chalmers and Mike Bibby can’t contain him. James Harden and Thabo Sefolosha will have their hands full of Wade and actually we might see Wade guard Westbrook for big stretches because of the mismatch. That’s why I think it’s key to use Harden extensively because it won’t allow the Miami backcourt to matchup that well. Though Thabo has played Wade well in the past.
This game is much different from the first because no longer is Jeff Green guarding Chris Bosh. Now it’s Serge Ibaka’s responsibility. Which is good for OKC. On top of that with Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder actually has a much stronger overall front line. Isn’t that fun to say! Zydrunas Ilgauskas is out, so it’ll be Jamaal Magloire, Juwan Howard and Erick Dampier for the Heat inside. OKC should have an edge there for sure.
I feel like limiting the Heat’s bench to get anything going will be the biggest key for the Thunder. OKC just can’t let Mike Miller, Eddie House or whoever to get hot and provide 15-20 extra points. If OKC can limit the Heat mostly to just their big three scoring, I think the Thunder will be alright.
If you’re not excited for this game, I’d recommend you get that way. It’s the new and improved Thunder versus a title contender in a primetime national television game. LeBron vs. KD. Westbrook and Wade. Perk and Bosh. It’s going to be good.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Hot Thunder.